Iraq Vet’s SpongeBob Gravestone Removed

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By AMANDA LEE MYERS | Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) – An Iraq war veteran's towering SpongeBob SquarePants headstone has been
removed from her final resting place because officials at the historic
Cincinnati cemetery deemed it inappropriate for their traditional
grounds.

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, along with a near-exact duplicate erected for
Walker's living twin sister, have 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.

He acknowledged that the cemetery is at fault and that staff members
would be meeting with Walker's family on Tuesday to try to find a
solution, which could include a more traditional gravestone bearing
small likeness of the character.

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.

“I feel terrible that it got to this point but I'm hoping we can come
out at the other end of the tunnel with a solution,” he said.

Walker was an Army corporal assigned to the 2nd General Support Aviation
Battalion and served two yearlong tours Iraq in 2006 and 2010 as a
petroleum supply specialist, her family said.

Walker was found dead in a hotel room in Colorado Springs on Valentine's
Day this year, strangled and beaten to death. Her boyfriend, an Army
sergeant stationed nearby, was arrested and charged with her killing.

Walker's twin sister, Kara Walker, said the family is beyond distraught.
A lot of thought went into the gravestones, which she said were chosen
because her sister loved SpongeBob, even outfitting her entire bedroom
with the cartoon character's decorations.

“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, an information technician for the U.S. Navy stationed
in Naples, Italy.

“My sister served our country and most people try to accommodate
veterans and try to take care of them,” she said. “For them not to
accommodate and respect what my sister sacrificed, not only for my
family, but for everyone else in this country, really bothers me.”

She said the only way the cemetery can make it up to the family, which
she said pre-paid for six plots for $29,000, is to put the headstones
back.

“They already brought enough grief and pain to the family,” she said.
“We want what we paid for and what I know my sister would have wanted.”

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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