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Cairo Residents To Erect Memorial For Bank Murder Victims

Martin David
Wikimedia Commons

Citizens of Cairo are planning to establish a memorial for the victims of a botched bank robbery.

Anita Grace and Nita Jo Smith were both murdered in May. A surviving bank employee was seriously injured.

Monica Smith, the director of the Cairo Public Library, is planning to place two inscribed pink granite benches in a park near First National Bank in honor of the two women who were killed. She also hopes to plant a tree with a marker to honor the surviving bank employee.

“We just felt like as a community that something needed to be done to recognize them because they were both, or all three of them, were integral parts of our community,” Monica Smith said. “They were involved in our community and their churches and of course [we] wanted to do something to show their families how much we appreciated them in the Cairo area.”

The benches have already been ordered and Smith hopes to place them in the park by the end of September or beginning of October. The memorial items cost between $2,500 and $3,000 dollars. She has already raised that money, but she is still seeking contributions to help cover upkeep costs. 

“It’s something that everyone will see when they go by. It’s on the very main thoroughfare through the community and it was close to where they worked,” Smith said. “We just felt like the benches would be something that people could go and sit and enjoy. It’s a beautiful park."

Anita Grace, 52, lived in Olive Branch, Ill. and was the bank’s manager. Monica Smith described her as a sweet person who never met a stranger.

“She and her husband and their families were wonderful people,” she said.

Nita Jo Smith, also 52, lived in Wickliffe, Ky. and had many relatives in Cairo. 

“She was involved in her church and many things over there, but she had many cousins here in Cairo,” Monica Smith said. “We all felt like she was part of Cairo, too.”

James Watts has been charged with attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death in a federal court.

For those who wish to make a contribution, it can be mailed in an enveloped marked “Memorial Project” to:

Cairo Public Library
Attention: Monica Smith
PO Box 151
Cairo, IL 62914