Veteran’s SpongeBob gravestone removed
A photo provided by the family of Kimberly Walker shows Walker's gravestone in the likeness of popular cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Despite getting prior approval for the gravestone from Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, the cemetery recently removed it, saying it did not fit in with the character of the historic and picturesque cemetery. AP photo
CINCINNATI — Officials at a cemetery that removed a slain Iraq war veteran’s towering SpongeBob SquarePants headstone from her final resting place after they deemed it inappropriate for their traditional grounds were planning to meet with the soldier’s family to explore possible solutions.
The headstone of Kimberly Walker, 28, was made in the likeness of her favorite cartoon character and erected at Spring Grove Cemetery on Oct. 10, almost eight months after she was found slain in a Colorado hotel room. Despite getting the cemetery’s prior approval of the headstone’s design — a smiling SpongeBob in an Army uniform, with Walker’s name and rank — her family said Monday that cemetery staff called them the day after it was installed to say it would have to come down.
The 7-foot headstone has been removed and will not be allowed back up, cemetery President Gary Freytag said Monday.
“We’ve decided that they aren’t appropriate for our historic cemetery and they can’t be displayed here,” Freytag said, adding that the employee who approved the headstones made an inexplicable error in judgment, given the cemetery’s traditional, stately appearance.
Freytag also said Spring Grove is prepared to reimburse the family for each headstone, which cost a combined $26,000, and pay for new ones. Cemetery officials plan to meet with Walker’s family on Tuesday.
“It is frustrating that you entrust a cemetery to have your best interest at heart and accommodate you and your family at a hard time ... and because they don’t like it they’re going to take it down,” said Kara Walker, 29, Kimberly’s twin sister.
She said the only way the cemetery can make it up to the family, which she said pre-paid for six plots, is to put the headstones back.