*CEMETERY SIGN,  - Faulkner County, Arkansas |  *CEMETERY SIGN - Arkansas Gravestone Photos


Sinai (African-American) Cemetery
Faulkner County,



Published Tuesday, May 27, 2008

People across Faulkner County were celebrating Memorial Day Monday morning. The Sinai Cemetery Board of Trustees was among them, holding a meeting and memorial at the cemetery off Skunk Hollow Road southeast of Conway.

Many veterans were in attendance and many are buried in the cemetery, one of the county's oldest.

It's hard to know how old the cemetery is, trustee Sam Bunting said, as many early records have been lost or destroyed, but judging by the earliest headstones and condition of unmarked graves, he guesses it was founded in the mid-to-early 1800s.

What is known is that a few years ago, the cemetery was in bad shape.

Faulkner County Sheriff Karl Byrd and Maj. Andy Shock of FCSO attended the event. Byrd said that when he took office the cemetery had suffered for years from illegal dumping. He made cleaning it up one of his first priorities.

With the work of the cemetery's caretaker, Sam Harvey, and crews of "309" inmates organized by Byrd, the cemetery is once again something the tight-knit surrounding it community can be proud of.

"We're here today to celebrate the live and legacy of our loved ones that paved the way for us," Rev. Cornell Maltbia said. "Today is a day for them and to honor them for the sacrifices they have made to us over the years."

The graves of known veterans were decorated with American flags, but many of the graves are only evident by a depression in the ground, unmarked rock or piece of deteriorated wood. Bunting said the cemetery board is trying to identify as many of the graves as it can, but has to rely on "the oldtimers" for clues as to who is buried where.

He remarked that he regrets not having asked some recently deceased elders in the tight-knit community for help in identifying graves.

Earnett Maltbia's father, Ephraim Maltbia, is buried there. Maltbia said his late father, like many World War II veterans, did not discuss their combat experience with his family.

"I can't tell you much about his service," Maltbia said, "but I can tell you he was a man, he taught us how to work and he taught us respect."

There's a lesson in his father's life, he said, and the lives of all the World War II veterans for Americans who still choose to center their lives around the principals of hate his father fought against and take up the swastika as a banner.

"They just don't know nothing," he said. "It's like a teacher once told me, an empty waggon makes a lot of noise."

Another veteran at Sinai Cemetery was Eddie Ryan Jr. His father, Eddie Ryan Sr., served as a combat engineer in the South Pacific theater of operations during World War II.

"He raised seven sons that served in the military," Ryan said, including himself, who served in the Vietnam War.

Perhaps the earliest known veteran buried in the cemetery is William Cox, whose gravestone indicates that he served in a "colored infantry" division. There's a good chance that he fought in the U.S. Civil War, Bunting said.

Keith Maltbia was also in attendance. His grandfather, Gifford Maltbia, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II aboard the USS San Jacinto, an Independence-class light aircraft carrier. It was the same ship that President George H. W. Bush flew from, Maltbia said.

What the Sinai Cemetery means to Keith Maltbia is "that our family had a vision to get buried together here, as a family."

For the sake of his family and the many other loved ones remembered Monday, and for the many veterans buried at the cemetery, he said, "it's important to see that (the cemetery) doesn't disappear."

During the board's meeting, Bunting asked for a got commitments from several members of the close-knit community to raise money so the cemetery's caretaker, Sam Harvey, can be paid $350 per month in 2009 rather than the current $250.

"Gas is going up and everything's being passed along to the consumer," Bunting said. "The next generation coming along, they need to know where their parents and grandparents are."

Now that the cemetery has been restored to presentable condition, Harvey said, the illegal dumping has trailed off.

He hopes it stays that way.

Contributed on 11/16/16 by hawkinsdonna
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Record #: 1161844

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Submitted: 11/16/16 • Approved: 11/20/16 • Last Updated: 12/1/21 • R1161844-G0-S3

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