Billy Neil Ellis died at home, surrounded by his family, on Sunday, November 18, 2018 at the age of 82. A lifelong resident of Chickamauga, Billy Neil was an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a selfless advocate for his community and the beloved patriarch of a family he cherished. The son of Lillian Crowder and Neil William Ellis, Billy Neil graduated from Chickamauga High School in 1954. After high school, he joined the army in 1955 and was stationed in South Korea. When he returned to the United States in 1957, he met Jean Marie Oliver, also of Chickamauga. They were married on Dec. 19, 1958 in the home of Frank and Bernice Loveless, Billy Neil’s aunt and uncle. Billy Neil and Jean were married just a few weeks shy of 60 years. Together, they raised Gregory Neil Ellis and Sherri Neila Ellis. Billy Neil served as a member of the Board of Education for Chickamauga City Schools for 37 years. This service, while impressive in its own right, does not begin to scratch the surface of his endless generosity to the last three generations of Gordon Lee Trojans. Billy Neil and Jean never missed a fall Friday night of Gordon Lee Football, cheering from their perch in the top of the stands. Over the course of his life, Billy Neil served in countless leadership positions, both publicly and behind the scenes, never wanting the credit or the acclaim. These included serving as a member of the Board of Trustees at Elizabeth Lee United Methodist Church and as a member of the Chickamauga City Council. However, Billy Neil’s most important leadership roles were those of father and grandfather. To the children and grandchildren who adored him, Billy Neil “Poppy” was a rock, unfailingly generous, kind and loving.
Billy Neil was preceded in death by his parents.
He is survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren, Kristen Spires (Laura) Williams, Dwane Alexander Spires and Shelby Frances Ellis.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Billy Neil’s honor to the Elizabeth Lee United Methodist Church Building Fund or the Gordon Lee High School Athletic Fund.
The family would like to thank Hospice of Chattanooga for their wonderful care and support.
The family will receive friends on Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. and Wednesday morning prior to the service. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at Elizabeth Lee United Methodist Church, with Pastor Zach Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Melody Day. Burial will follow in Chickamauga Cemetery – Chickamauga.
Arrangements by Wilson Funeral Homes – Chickamauga Chapel. Online register book at www.wilsonfuneralhome.com