Grant Money For Vandalized Van Buren Cemetery Approved

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VAN BUREN (KFSM) – When Fairview Cemetery was vandalized this summer, several historic monuments were broken in half.

Those monuments will soon be repaired, according to cemetery benefactor Randy Smith.

A total of 35 monuments were vandalized, and he said the five that were destroyed will be fixed by May of 2016.

“This is a great ending to maybe a not-so-great story,” Smith said.

Smith found out Monday (Oct. 26) the city of Van Buren will receive nearly $10,000 to make that happen, thanks to a grant he wrote.

The grant funds will be paid to the city in increments, as proof of the repairs is sent to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

But Smith said this goes beyond the money.

“These monuments become a physical representation of that person's life,” he said. “If the monument is lost or destroyed, then very often, the story of that person goes along with it."

And he said at least one of those stories is still being told, by the family of Jessie Finley, who Smith said died in 1910.

"They saw the news story about the vandalism that was originally ran this past summer and recognized his monument,” he said.

Smith said Finley’s relatives in Muskogee come to visit his grave twice a year, and knowing that he can tell the family the monument will be fixed is part of what makes this grant so exciting.

"It kind of makes it all that more pleasurable to me to know that there are those who still care, and are concerned.”

Smith said he expects repairs will begin sometime in November.

“This couldn't have worked out any better,” he said.

Van Buren police said two juveniles have been arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief. The case is now closed.