Nate Anton is a member of the Missourian's community outreach team and an MU senior studying humanitarian journalism.
Only four months ago, I sat in an old chair in a front yard in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I was in the heart of Columbia’s First Ward, the place Almeta Crayton called home, and I was there to interview Ms. Almeta.
Funeral: Second Missionary Baptist Church, 407 E. Broadway. Visitation from 10 a.m. to noon. Friday. Service at noon.
Repast after funeral: Urban Empowerment, 2409 N. Stadium Blvd. Starts at about 1:45.
Donation fund to help Crayton's family: Any Boone County National Bank branch can accept donations to the “Almeta Crayton Donation Fund.”
What began as a simple story for a class project ended up providing a life lesson. But then again, that’s how Ms. Almeta lived her life — leading by example and going above and beyond.
She understood the importance of putting a face to issues that might not always be the easiest to talk about. During our conversation, she shared her worldview about things such as being a positive example for kids, the importance of having a purpose in life and why community connections matter.
As the community mourns the loss of Ms. Almeta, I found myself listening again to the wise words of this woman who faced so many obstacles and yet still made such a difference.
Here, I’ll share clips of our June conversations, with the hope that others can learn from them as well.
Ms. Almeta was raised by her paternal grandparents in St. Louis.
She raised her son as a single mom and talked about what it meant to be part of the "working poor."
Since 1996, she had offered her front porch as a gathering post and as a window into community problems.
After beginning dialysis treatments, Ms. Almeta continued working at Gentry Middle School as long as she could.
City Council philosophy
"As a council person, you go above and beyond." Ms. Almeta talked about taking service to the next level.
She explained the importance of building relationships with constituents. "I want to know who's in each one of these houses."
Words of wisdom
Helping others was a natural part of life for Ms. Almeta.
Despite hardships, Ms. Almeta kept reaching for positive change and making an effort.
Ms. Almeta discussed the value of self-worth and how a lack of self-worth causes problems for people and for the larger community. "You need to feel good about you."
She stressed the importance of having positive activities available in the community.
"You don't know what you're going to lift somebody else up." Here she talks about the importance of being a role model.
"I do get depressed sometimes because I feel like I can't do as much as I used to." But she placed a high value on helping children see that they had the opportunity to make good choices.
It's all about the children
"It's about the community. It's about the children."
Ms. Almeta worked to ensure young people had no excuse not to attend school. "I got pencils, I got theme books. ..."
Ms. Almeta was part of the Nightgown Crew, in which she went out late at night to prevent kids and teens from getting into trouble.
Ms. Almeta worked in schools and used her position to encourage children to read and become involved. "Let the kids see you do something positive."
What lessons will you take away from Almeta Crayton's life? Share your tribute to or memories of her by emailing submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com.
And see what community members have told us they want to thank Crayton for in this Facebook album.
Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.