CINCINNATI -- A SpongeBob SquarePants monument commemorating the life of deceased Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker was reinstalled at Spring Grove Cemetery Friday exactly one year after her death.
The monument, which has two SpongeBob tombstones, went up Oct. 10, 2013 at Spring Grove Cemetery's Section 144 but was taken down the next day after a long dispute over its design.
When Walker of Madisonville was growing up, she began watching SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons on television and was hooked.
"She just really fell in love with SpongeBob and after that everything she did it always had to have SpongeBob in it somewhere,” said Kimberly’s twin sister, Kara Walker.
Her mother, Deborah Walker, said that meant SpongeBob everywhere.
"Her bathroom -- everything was SpongeBob. Her bed, her sheets, everything was SpongeBob,” Deborah said.
Kimberly and Kara even exchanged SpongeBob bears on their 21st birthday. Kimberly's was called "Determination" and went with her to Iraq. Kara was in the Navy and took her bear "Loveable" everywhere.
Kimberly was strangled by an acquaintance on Valentine's Day in Denver. She was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery and her family had the SpongeBob themed monument created several months later.
"We were just so happy and pleased and we were just smiling from ear to ear,” Deborah said of the installing of the monument in October. “This is what my daughter wanted and we have got everything that we wanted and that she loved.”
However, the next day, it came down.
Spring Grove Cemetery president and CEO Gary Freytag said the design was chosen with the guidance of an employee who made an unfortunate error in judgment and didn't have it approved by senior management.
“Spring Grove is deeply sorry for the issues involving the monument the Walker family recently purchased,” Freytag said in October. “The monument does not fit within Spring Grove Cemetery guidelines, was not approved by senior management and cannot remain here. As an historic cemetery, we must constantly balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past.”
Four months after the dispute began, the monument was back up, and Freytag issued an apology to the Walker family.
“We deeply regret the distress this caused the family,” he said. “We have worked hard to remedy the problem and appreciate the cooperation we received from the family during this process.”
According to Al Gerhardstein, the Walker family’s attorney, the apology has been accepted.
Gerhardstein said the Walkers are pleased the original SpongeBob figures remain included in the monuments.
“The Walker family has other members buried at Spring Grove and it was important to resolve this dispute in a way that would preserve Spring Grove as their family cemetery,” Gerhardstein said. “The peace the family can now enjoy at Kimberly’s graveside on the beautiful grounds of the historic Spring Grove Cemetery will help them find the strength to endure the upcoming trial of the man accused in her death.”
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