Unrest in peace

Iraq vet's family considering gravestone options.
Associated Press
Oct 23, 2013

The family of a slain Iraqi war veteran wants her towering SpongeBob SquarePants headstone returned to her final resting place while the cemetery officials that removed it say that's the only thing they won't do, leaving both sides at an apparent impasse that may have to be decided in court.

Deborah Walker told The Associated Press after Tuesday's meeting with Spring Grove Cemetery officials that she'd consider their various proposals if they would think about hers — simply putting her daughter Kimberly's gravestone back.

But cemetery President Gary Freytag told the AP that isn't an option.

The headstone fashioned in the cartoon character's likeness was erected at Spring Grove Cemetery on Oct. 10, almost eight months after Kimberly Walker, 28, was found slain in a Colorado hotel room.

Despite getting the cemetery's prior approval of the headstone design — a smiling SpongeBob in an Army uniform, with Walker's name and rank — cemetery staff called her family the day after it was installed to say it would have to come down.

Cemetery officials said the employee who approved the design made a mistake. It was taken down along with a near-exact duplicate erected for Walker's living twin sister.

Deborah Walker said she's beyond frustrated with Spring Grove, saying her family had a contract, wants it to be honored as promised and is now considering their legal options.

"You can't keep blaming it on an employee," she said. "That employee represented that whole cemetery and when they do wrong, you've got to make it right. Put SpongeBob back up."

Freytag said he's "willing to do whatever the family thinks is best, other than installing the monuments back as they were."

Other possible solutions, Freytag said, include creating new, more traditional headstones bearing a smaller SpongeBob likeness, or laying the original headstones flat on the ground after redesigning the lot.

Spring Grove would cover all the costs, Freytag said.

Kimberly Walker's twin sister, Kara Walker, said her family went to great lengths for each of the $13,000 headstones, including obtaining copyright approval from Nickelodeon. The family believes the headstone was the only fitting tribute for her sister, a huge SpongeBob fan.

Kimberly 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.

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

"My sister served our country and most people try to accommodate veterans and try to take care of them," Kara Walker 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."

Freytag said Spring Grove admires and appreciates Kimberly Walker's military service but that the cemetery has to consider the wishes of other families whose loved ones are interred there and may not feel that gravestones modeled after cartoon characters are appropriate.

The dispute over the headstones has gained nationwide attention. Freytag said the cemetery has received so many calls, both in support of and against its decision, that they had to set up a special extension to field all the comments.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

 

Comments

From the Grave

I wonder if they have any Harley headstones in the cemetery.

doppleganger

When I'm dead and buried in the cemetery, I don't care what my neighbor has on his/her headstone. If that's all people have to worry about, in my opinion, they are truly blessed.

shucks

They are just trying to make the cemetery a fun- place , destination spot.
People will be dying to get in there.

2cents

WOW! So what, The stone yells out,

"I loved life, I was a happy fun person, remember me for me"

Put it back jerks!

Contango

Argue that it's a First Amend. issue - "The Church of the Most Sacred Spongebob."

Sue their *sses.

Nemesis

Unless it's a government cemetery, it's not applicable.

Steamer84

Oh come on, I have seen worse things on head stones!

mimi's word

I want something exciting like the ones from old west...
Here lies Michelle
She probably went to H3LL
But on her way there
she did it with Flair
and lived her life so well!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Maybe I'm from a different generation or culture but I don't see how this is offensive to other families in the cemetery. I sure would like something that's more than most headstones out there as it acts as a reflection of one's life. In looking around at others we see all manner of religious or quasi-religious icons, statues in various stages of dress, elaborate motorcycles, simple Name/Date markers, and some creative mausoleums and other architecture.

Quailman

I agree, leave it to culture-deficient Ohio to do something ignorant like this. Maybe it is more decent to have a traditional headstone set up in a cemetery but this is in honor of a war veteran who wouldn't have even been offended by it, being that it's stated by the family that it's in tribute to her favorite show. People visiting the cemetery don't have to like the headstone if they don't want to, but they should at least respect her family's decision of honoring her. I don't see why they can have Harley Davidson motorcycle headstones but not one of Spongebob, and I don't see why the cemetery officials would find it inappropriate. If it has to do with it being a kids show, who cares. Tons of adults also like Spongebob, it was even created by adults. I say to heck with the cemetery official's decision, this war veteran fought for our freedom and rights so the family should have the freedom to choose what headstone to honor her with and the right to have this headstone put back in her memory.

Señor Clown

The whole grave marker concept is a bit silly, and I don't just mean having cartoon character headstones. I'd personally rather be remembered for something more than my family going to great lengths to spend $13k each for headstones for both myself and my sibling. Does anyone ever stop and ask themselves, "Why are we paying thousands of dollars for a tiny plot of land and marble and granite tributes to deceased loved ones? Are we being exploited during an emotionally difficult event?"

Stop It

Yep, screw all the hoopla. Donate my body for whatever science, burn the rest and throw it to the wind. I've carried two caskets and refuse to do it ever again. The last one was titanium shell over concrete and silk lined innards. It had to weigh over a 1/2 ton. Six guys struggled with it.

Also, it was put in an underground concrete shell. For what? I'm just guessin', but I reckon I coulda bought a Cadillac SUV with all the amenities with the cash spent on that "last trip". I ain't gettin' any younger and I don't even look at the bodies because I don't want to remember those I loved in that state.

Celebrate the soul instead of the body. That's MHO.