Iraq vet’s family considering gravestone options

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CINCINNATI — 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.”

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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