Spring Grove Cemetery takes down slain soldier's SpongeBob SquarePants tombstone

CINCINNATI -- When Army Sgt. Kimberly 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,” said Deborah.

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 recently had a SpongeBob themed monument created.

One side had the character in an Army uniform. The other donned a Navy uniform.

The monument went up Oct. 10 at Spring Grove Cemetery's Section 144.

"We were just so happy and pleased and we were just smiling from ear to ear. This is what my daughter wanted and we have got everything that we wanted and that she loved,” said Deborah.

However, the next day, it came down.

Spring Grove Cemetery president and CEO Gary Freytag said in a statement that 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. The family chose a design with the guidance of a Spring Grove employee who unfortunately made an error in judgment. 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. We are working with the Walker family and are committed to design a solution, at our expense, that will properly memorialize Kimberly within the context of Spring Grove’s historic landscape and guidelines.

"I don't believe that it's just two people at the bottom because the way they said that it works is everything above has to go the top and they have to actually sign off on everything,” said Deborah.

Freytag said the cemetery will work on a design solution at its expense to properly memorialize Kimberly.

However, the family isn't buying it.

"We don't need a reimbursement for the headstones. All we want is the headstones put back up and the original drawing back,” said Kara.

"It makes me feel like we're not upholding my daughter's wishes. That's what I want to do. That's the part that hurt,” said Deborah.

Spring Grove Cemetery officials met with the Walker family Tuesday afternoon to discuss details for a possible new design.  The cemetery suggested several plans for the monument, but the family said they still want the original memorial reinstalled.

"One of their proposals was to actually keep them in the cemetery. It's just that they wanted to do different things with them," said Kara.

Kara told 9 On Your Side it was the decision of Spring Grove officials to make the original monument 7 feet tall, not the family.

"I gave them a drawing and said, 'Can you accommodate this drawing?' They said yes. They came back and said this is how tall it's going to be. This is how wide it's going to be. This is the price," said Kara.

The family says they will take legal action if necessary.

"We can discuss it and if the discussion breaks down then the next step would be go to go court and let someone else decide," said Kimberly and Kara's father, Kevin Walker.

Kara said she wants the issue resolved by Nov. 9 because that's the birthday she shared with Kimberly. The family has an event planned for the cemetery on that date.


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