Though it had initially given the thumbs up to display a highly unique headstone, Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery withdrew its approval and has removed the large memorial stone of an Army veteran who was killed earlier this year.
28-year-old Cincinnati native Kimberly Walker, who spent yearlong tours in Iraq in 2006 and 2010, was found strangled to death in a Colorado Springs, Colo. hotel room on Valentine's Day after a fight with her Army sergeant boyfriend. According to Cincinnati's WLWT on Monday, Walker's family purchased a six-foot, 7,000-pound headstone bearing the likeness of the popular Nickelodeon character SpongeBob SquarePants wearing an Army uniform back in March in honor of her love for the cartoon.
"She loved SpongeBob," Walker's mother Deborah told WLWT, adding that the character could be found on everything from Kimberly's curtains to bathroom decor. "SpongeBob went in her casket before we laid her down in the ground."
The Walkers also purchased a second SpongeBob stone sporting a U.S. Navy uniform for Kimberly's twin sister Kara, who is currently serving as an IT specialist. Each stone cost over $13,000 each. Though the family had initially received approval from Spring Grove to erect the monuments on Oct. 10, they received a call the next day saying the headstones were deemed inappropriate and would need to be removed for not meeting the cemetery's guidelines.
Spring Grove president and CEO Gary Freytag released a statement on the matter, saying the family had been assisted by an employee who "unfortunately made a serious error in judgment" and adding that the headstones were not approved by senior management.
“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,” Freytag said.
The Washington Post notes that Freytag also said the cemetery is prepared to reimburse the Walkers and pay for new headstones. Both parties are reportedly scheduled to meet on Tuesday to try and resolve the issue.