After a year of waiting, the mother of Camren and Damen Rager will be able to have an image of SpongeBob SquarePants carved at her sons’ gravesite.
Tammy Rager received one-time permission from Viacom International, which owns the copyright, to use the image. It took a year of unanswered e-mails and phone calls, an article in the Patriot-News of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and some help from Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter.
Camren, 6, and Damen, 2, are buried at Cumberland Valley Memorial Gardens in South Middleton Township, Pennsylvania. The children of Tammy and Randy Rager died in a fire in their Middlesex Township home last year.
The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants was a favorite of the two. Their bedroom was full of SpongeBob toys, pictures and other items.
On July 30, 2006, SpongeBob SquarePants was the last program they watched. Their mother had let them stay up past their normal bedtime to watch the show and then put the boys to bed.
That night, a fire started in the family’s second-floor clothes dryer. The boys died when they were trapped in their bedroom by heat and smoke. “My boys died on SpongeBob sheets,” Tammy Rager said.
The Ragers and their daughter Kailyn, now 2, and Randy Rager son, Josh Taormina, now 18, escaped from the fire. But due to intense flames, heat and smoke, they could not rescue Camren and Damen.
Rager has permission to use the image on the gravestone, Nickelodeon spokeswoman Joanna Roses confirmed Sunday. “We just learned about this last week, roundabout through a third party,” she told the Patriot-News. “We want to express our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Rager and the family.”
Last week, Specter got in touch with Nickelodeon on behalf of Rager. The mother said that a member of Specter’s staff called her Friday night to tell her that she could use the image. But on Sunday afternoon, Rager said that she still hasn’t heard personally from network representatives.
“I’m happy with the final result, but I’m not happy about how Nickelodeon handled the situation. My whole complaint was that they weren’t considerate enough to respond to me,” she said. “It still seems cold and heartless.”
There is a temporary marker at the gravesite in Cumberland Valley Memorial Gardens. Cemetery administator Ginnie Weller said that Nickelodeon is sending authorization to use the SpongeBob image to the company that will make the permanent bronze marker.
“It will probably be early next year before the marker is in place on the boys’ grave. It takes five to six weeks to get a custom marker made,” Weller said.
The cemetery wrote to Viacom five times, telling the story of the fire and how the boys loved the TV show.
According to Weller, the Nickelodeon representative who phoned her was unable to explain why numerous messages that she and Rager left with the company went unanswered.
Viacom did not respond to several phone calls and e-mail messages left by the Patriot-News over several days requesting comment.