David Terrell Obituary

David Edward Terrell was born on May 12, 1936 on a small farm in College Park, GA, and he loved to tell stories about his simple childhood. Though he, his parents, and three younger brothers lived without luxury in a drafty, one-bedroom tenant house, he remembered his early years fondly and often spoke of the way his hard-working, devoted mother shaped his life there. After graduating high school and attending West Georgia College, he served a year in the U.S. Army. In 1958, he met Phyllis Newell at a church service, and after hearing her sing, told a buddy he was going to marry her. He proposed on their third date, and they were married in 1959. Together, they raised nine children.

David began preaching shortly after he married, and in 1965, he began pastoring at Cornelia Christian Church. During this time, as a testament to his work ethic and determination, he also took classes at Atlanta Christian College, commuting three hours, one way, five days a week until he graduated three years later. He made his home in Cornelia and devoted his life to his work at the church, where he continued preaching for 51 years. On the day he retired, everyone anticipated the last sermon he would give. But instead of recounting his years of service and reminiscing over memories, he asked the deacons and elders to come to the front, had them sit on the stage, and wordlessly knelt down and washed their feet. 

During his years of ministry, David was tireless in his work. He had a genuine love for people and felt a great responsibility for being present to deliver a word of comfort and hope for those in need. He was known for being at the hospital more than the hospital staff, visiting the sick and hurting. He loved and cared for others for the long-term, guiding many of the families of his congregation through multiple generations. 

David was constantly trying new ideas to reach people and share the gospel. Through the years, he started youth rallies, began church leagues for softball and basketball, ran a bus ministry, started The Joyful Noise Choir tours in Florida, and wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper. In 1966, he stepped out in faith to pursue his true passion–starting a camp. As a boy from a poor family, he wanted to make it possible for all children to go to camp and learn about God, because a similar experience deeply impacted his own life. This led him to begin drawing up the vision which has now become North Georgia Christian Camp in Clarkesville, Georgia. The camp has ministered to thousands of children of all ages since then and continues to grow, thrive, and impact lives year after year. 

David and Phyllis had a heart for young people, and even though they had a houseful of their own children, they had an open door policy. Many young people grew up considering the Terrell house a second home. In order to meet the needs of his large family, in 1977, in addition to pastoring, he started a landscaping business. In this way, as with his ministry, he has sown seeds that have made his community more beautiful. 

When his beloved wife of 60 years passed away in 2019, David began putting his heart into the Lower Campus of Cornelia Christian Church, making improvements to the property and creating a place for families to gather in a beautiful setting for events, picnics, and fellowship. This space will serve as a lasting legacy of his love for God, family, and the church as, through the years, people come down the path of the prayer walk, picnic by the creek, play on the playground and in the treehouse, take the winding trail that loops through the woods, and enjoy family and friendship in a peaceful place that he designed with much love and prayer.

David loved to make things beautiful, and he loved the simple pleasures of life. He loved to laugh, to drink tea from a china cup, and to watch a movie with a happy ending. He loved celebrations, the fragrance of flowers, eating good food, and a well-crafted line of poetry. He never missed an opportunity to tell a good joke or take a day trip to the mountains. He fully enjoyed the company of friends, and the deep satisfaction of good, honest work.

David often used metaphors from the garden to describe faith. Those who have been to his home know that he was an artist in the garden. He put seeds in the ground, and he waited patiently for them to grow, delighting in walking through each day to see what was in bloom. His garden, like his ministry, is one that could have only existed through long years of slow and patient work. It is a lifetime garden, as his ministry is a lifetime ministry. His is an example of the incredible impact one man can have by living a quiet, humble, and faithful life.

David will be greatly missed by all who knew him, but especially by his church, his family, and his dear friend Carole Jackson, who was a companion to him in the final year of his life.

He is preceded in death by his parents, John and Ruth Terrell, wife Phyllis Newell Terrell, and grand-daughter Megan Elizabeth Terrell.

He is survived by his three brothers, George Terrell, Leonard (Barbara) Terrell, Lewis (Kaye) Terrell, and sister-in-law Audra (Richard) White.

David’s love and legacy lives on in his nine children, 25 grandchildren, and 17 great- grandchildren. 

Children (and Spouses):

Jonathan (Tracie) Terrell, Cornelia
Melanie Terrell, Gainesville
Memrie (Rick) Cox, Elberton
Melissa (Neil) Landers, Mt. Airy
Monica (Greg) Miller, Cornelia
Jason (Anna) Terrell, Elberton
Jody (Megan) Terrell, Gainesville
Michelle (Barry) Steiner, Bettendorf, Iowa
Mackenzie (Randy) Chester, Clarkesville

Grandchildren (and Spouses): 

Zach (Vanessa) Terrell, Jordan (Amy) Terrell, Meredith Terrell, Josh (Ashley) Cox, Jared (Brooklynn) Cox, Joel Cox, Mallory Cox, Jackson (Grayson) Landers, Lauren (Shane) Seckinger, Dawson Landers, Terrell Miller, Marti Terrell, Jace Terrell, Jude Terrell, Jeb Terrell, Jett Steiner, Rosanna Chester, Paloma Chester, Kells Chester, Remy Chester, Heidi Chester, Azalea Chester, Rune Chester, Haven Chester, Ezra Chester


Clay Terrell, Ivy Terrell, Izzy Terrell, Myla Terrell, Ryder Terrell, Declan Terrell, Jax Terrell, Lexie Heaston, Kennedy Heaston, Jensen Cox, Memphis Cox, Judson Cox, Calvin Cox, Cali Moss, Landon Heath, Heath Landers, Blythe Landers

In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored if you would consider a donation to North Georgia Christian Camp or to the Lower Campus Fund in David’s memory. (For camp donations, visit https://www.christiancamp.net/supportcamp. To contribute to maintenance of the Lower Campus, send a check to Cornelia Christian Church and mark it for “Lower Campus.”)