In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Don Reece, 88

Don Reece, 1931-2020

Zemery Don Reece, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the Sub-Saharan African Affinity Peoples in Nigeria, died Aug. 22, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was 88.

Born to the late Mae Haynes and Zemery Reece in Haywood County, North Carolina, he was the eldest son of eight children. He graduated from Bethel High School in 1949. He received the Bachelor of Arts from Berea (Ky.) College; the Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, and the Master of Arts in educational supervision and principalship from Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond.

While at Berea, he met Gwendolyn Downes of Boaz, Alabama, married her, and she joined him in a life of mission work. He and Gwen were appointed as Southern Baptist missionaries to Nigeria in 1959, serving almost 35 years in many capacities in various parts of the country, including church development, education leadership, relief work, pastoral development, and as house parents for missionary children.

For his relief work during the Nigerian Civil War, Reece was given the chieftaincy title, Onotu of Amai. Don concluded his work in Nigeria as mission director of the organization of Southern Baptist missionaries there.

After retiring in 1993 after 34 years of service, Don and Gwen moved to Boaz, Alabama, and were active in First Baptist Church, Boaz. Don taught Sunday school and participated in many mission trips around the world as a part of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief efforts.

Reece is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gwendolyn Downes Reece of Tuscaloosa; son, Kevin Reece (Pamela) of North Carolina; daughter-in-law Rhonda Reece of Decatur; daughter Dr. Paige Reece McCormick (Dr. Mark) of Tuscaloosa; three grandchildren; a brother, Dean Reece of California and sister, Gayle West of Virginia.

He was preceded in death by a son, Bryan Reece.

A private burial service was held Aug. 26, 2020, in in Boaz. A public celebration of his life was to be held later.

Donations in Reece’s memory may be made to the WMU Foundation-Vision Fund, Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief: General Fund, or Nigeria Faithful Works, Inc.

Read an obituary here.