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AETN Viewer Story — Shelia Boyland and “Silent Storytellers”

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At AETN, we are fortunate to have jobs that allow us to make and facilitate the broadcast of TV worth watching and, every so often, we’re even further privileged to share in the joy of hearing the connections our programming makes possible for viewers! Earlier this month, Shelia Boyland shared her story of how a broadcast of our original documentary “Silent Storytellers” helped her discover the previously undocumented gravesite of her great-great uncle, Marcellus Walker.

We were touched to receive the following note from Shelia, a friend of AETN who currently lives in Texas:

“I wanted to personally thank your team for producing “Silent Storytellers” [in] 2010.

I was looking on the web for historical pictures of “Paraloma, Arkansas,” when I clicked my way to the [“Silent Storytellers”] video url. Words cannot express how I felt when, before my eyes, the Paraloma Cemetery came into view.

To give you some context, I had just updated our family’s genealogy chart with the name “Marcellus Walker,” the brother of my great grandmother, Mary Ellen Walker.

As I [was] watching clips of [Casey Sanders, Hop Litzwire], Phyllis and Norman speaking, I was intrigued and hanging on the edge of my seat. Phyllis [was explaining] a collection of small markers for the “unmarked” graves when the camera zoomed in on the name “Marcellus Walker.” I [started] screaming, okay, squealing, with delight!

I shared the news with my mother, and her reaction was no less passionate.

Since seeing the documentary, I have reached out to Phyllis, Norman and Verneice Smith and have the descendant information for Marcellus Walker.


I thank you and the team from the bottom of my heart and consciousness for support on this project.

No one [among our family] in Phoenix, Arizona, knows of this effort, and I can’t wait to share the news at the [family] reunion in May 2014.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

The Hopkins, Walker, Glen [Families]”

The AETN Production Department team and, truly, all of AETN staff are thrilled to have played a part in making this connection possible for Shelia. 

“Silent Storytellers” — which was made possible through funding provided by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, a division of the Arkansas Department of Heritage — was created to explore the cultural, artistic and personal stories cemeteries give to their surrounding communities. We received invaluable help from a wide range of communities, organizations and individuals across the state, including the Paraloma Cemetery Preservation Association, who made the film's creation possible. 

We’re grateful to Shelia and the Hopkins, Walker and Glen families for sharing their discovery with us and for letting us know just how important documentation and appreciation of our cemeteries is. They truly do connect us historically and culturally to our families, communities and, ultimately, to society as a whole.

Learn more about this production or watch the film online here.