Seven years ago, Columbia lost a woman whose positive effect on the community can still be felt today.
But for all her service to Columbia, the only marker on Almeta Crayton’s grave was a flower left by a friend.
She had spent her 53 years of life helping the community as a City Council member, poverty advocate and founder of the “Everyone Eats” Thanksgiving campaign. But her grave in Memorial Park Cemetery was left unmarked since she died Oct. 21, 2013.
Now, the woman who helped so many in the Columbia community through her service has received a final gift from the people she cared for: a grave marker to memorialize her life and service to the city.
On Wednesday, a public drive-by memorial was held so people who knew her could finally pay their respects at the gravestone of the powerful woman who started so much good in the Columbia community.
“Well done thy good and faithful servant,” the headstone reads.
Before the stone was placed, the grave was difficult to find. Crayton’s friend Tyree Paladon Byndom posted on social media expressing his dismay at finding the grave of his longtime friend unmarked. He left her flowers in the hopes that others could use them to find her.
Crayton’s godson, Kentrell Minton, saw the post and joined Byndom to raise funds to rectify this. They reached their funding goal in just four days.
Minton is the founder of Almeta Crayton’s Community Programs, which helps continue her long legacy of helping others in need. It keeps the Thanksgiving program running and works to serve Columbia’s residents who live in poverty.
“The mission is not over,” Minton said. “Almeta wrote the book; we just follow it.”
Minton said he learned everything he knows about helping his community from Crayton, known by most as “Mama” for her seemingly never-ending nurturing qualities.
“Almeta was about her people, her community,” Minton said. “She would go in between two fighting people and make them stop — something their mothers and fathers couldn’t do and definitely something the city of Columbia couldn’t do.”
While a tombstone was bought at the time of her passing, Byndom said in a Facebook post that the family was told by the cemetery that it couldn’t be used.
So Byndom, Minton and Crayton’s family raised $4,000 to purchase a tombstone for her gravesite just in time for the seventh anniversary of her death.
“Our collective action has given her so much peace, calm and joy,” he wrote in the post.