With Halloween arriving next week, what better occasion to talk graveyards and headstones? Today’s news had a story about Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum announcing its decision to banish two recently installed gravestones. One gravestone marks the spot of deceased Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker while the other monument honors her twin sister Kara (still living and currently a Navy IT specialist).
The problem with the gravestones? They depict SpongeBob Squarepants, Kimberly Walker’s favorite cartoon character. The two monuments stand more than six feet tall, weigh 7,000 pounds each and were purchased for $26,000 by the Walker family to honor their slain daughter. These massive granite structures show SpongeBob in military attire.
From the get-go, let’s agree cemeteries are unusual places. (Some would say odd.) According to Wikipedia, Spring Grove is the “second largest cemetery in the United States.” It’s a National Historic Landmark. Its 733 acres are the last resting place for numerous notable individuals. The gallery on Spring Grove’s website features impressive photography of their park-like setting and displays serene vistas that are positively alluring!
I think it’s a fair question to ask why the SpongeBob monuments would be deemed “inappropriate” by cemetery authorities. The headstones were created only after consultation with cemetery personnel; of course, the CEO blames an underling who failed to follow the cemetery guidelines. Right.
Gravestones typically provide information about the person buried beneath it. Oftentimes, though, gravestones are useful as a final statement (whether bold or restrained) about the deceased individual. How about this one (at right): a Scrabble board with its own unique message, presumably providing clues to the person’s unique character. I’d bet the cemetery where this gravestone is located gets its share of visitors wanting to see the unique burial monument.
According to information available on findagrave.com, Spring Grove has over 226,000 interments. Statistically speaking, odds are good there have to be at least a few other headstones on the grounds that could be described as “inappropriate.” Have any of them been removed?
Consider this curious headstone (left), which leads me to believe Sharol and Leon must have shared some really special times around the pool table (or at the neighborhood pool hall). I’ll bet their family and friends still smile thinking about the unusual monument, but it’s a shared moment to remind them of their departed friends.
My 3 year old grandson loves to watch SpongeBob videos and I’ve viewed the show with him, though I don’t consider myself a fan. Cartoon characters won’t be on my headstone but that’s just my personal preference. Is the Spring Grove cemetery fearful one or two SpongeBob monuments will ruin the classy tone of their establishment? Nonsense!
I haven’t seen the monument up close and personal, but the picture of Walker’s monument makes me smile. It’s happy, maybe even a little dopey, but as a window into this young soldier’s heart, the monument seems to intimate she was light-hearted, fun-loving and proud of her military service. That’s enough for me; I don’t know why anyone would consider it “inappropriate.”
In my genealogy research, I’ve stomped through many a cemetery in search of one relation or another. It can be a challenge to locate a specific gravestone in a sea of gravestones. I like the idea of a SpongeBob grave marker. Instead of searching out the tedious details of lane, section, lot and space numbers, a SpongeBob moument would be easily located and identifiable. The cemetery might even receive more visitors wanting to view Walker’s grave than would view their purportedly “famous” interments.
What do you think? Am I being too flippant? I invite your comments.