The family of a slain soldier is embroiled in a dispute with a Cincinnati cemetery over a giant pair of SpongeBob SquarePants headstones.
Sgt. Kimberly Walker was found dead on Valentine’s Day in a Colorado Springs, Colo., hotel room, and her boyfriend, Sgt. Montrell Mayo, was charged with first-degree murder in her death.
The 28-year-old Walker loved the Nickelodeon cartoon character and collected a variety of SpongeBob items, her mother told WLWT-TV.
“SpongeBob went in her casket before we laid her in the ground,” Deborah Walker said.
Her family ordered two 7,000-pound SpongeBob monuments, which cost more than $13,000 each, in March and said they received approval to erect them at Spring Grove Cemetery and paid 10 percent of the burial cost up front.
They also purchased six plots together in the historic cemetery.
Each SpongeBob wears a military uniform, with one wearing an Army uniform for Kimberly Walker and another in a Navy uniform for her twin sister, Kara, who is serving as an IT specialist.
They are each 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and each headstone also stands on an 8-inch base, bringing the full height to 6 feet 8 inches.
The monuments also have an American flag on one sleeve and the No. 24 for Kimberly’s favorite racecar driver Jeff Gordon on the other.
“I thought it was the greatest thing in the cemetery,” Kara Walker said. “I even told the people there that I think this is the best monument I’ve ever seen. It’s the best headstone in the cemetery, and they all agreed. It came out really nice.”
The monuments were installed Oct. 10, but cemetery officials told the family the following day that they were inappropriate and must be removed.
The cemetery’s president and CEP said he was deeply sorry for the misunderstanding, but he said the monuments did not fit within Spring Grove’s guidelines.
“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,” said Gary Freytag, Spring Grove president and CEO.
Freytag said the cemetery would pay for another monument that would fit Spring Grove’s landscape and guidelines, but Deborah Walker said her family thinks the SpongeBob monuments should stay where they are.
“We bought the plots, all six of them,” Deborah Walker said. “We put the monuments there, we did what we had to do and they said they could provide that service to us.”
Spring Grove Cemetery is the second largest cemetery in the U.S. and is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
The Walker family will meet later this week with cemetery officials to discuss a resolution.
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