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Eternal Hills Cemetery bankruptcy case first of its kind in Oregon

Family and friends of those buried at the Eternal Hills Cemetery in Klamath Falls did not get all of the answers they wanted in a meeting Wednesday night. They learned it could be a long time before the problems will be solved.

Posted: May 23, 2019 1:16 PM
Updated: May 23, 2019 6:58 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Family and friends of those buried at the Eternal Hills Cemetery in Klamath Falls did not get all of the answers they wanted in a meeting Wednesday night. They learned it could be a long time before the problems will be solved.

When the cemetery began to fall apart, members of the community created a Facebook group called the Eternal Hills Guardians. For months, they’ve been working to see how they can get the answers on what’s happened and happening to repair the cemetery.

Wednesday, at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, they got some of those answers. Klamath County Sheriff Kaber, a representative from Klamath County Animal Control, Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot as well as Senior Assistant Attorney General of the Oregon Department of Justice Carolyn Wade and the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board (OMCB) Executive Director Chad Dresselhaus were guest speakers at a meeting organized by the Facebook group and about 200 community members went.

"I cannot wrap into a single word the emotion that I saw looking out across all the people in our community and that's what drives me to continue,” said Kimberlee Underwood. She is one of the group’s administrators.

Seven of her family members are laid to rest at Eternal Hills. She takes care of her family’s graves when she can.

"It just takes time to go out to make sure the appearance and the structure is intact and making it as presentable as possible and everything that we do as a group effort,” Underwood added.

CLICK HERE for the initial response from a state lawmaker and the OMCB following public outcry at the end of April.

The Eternal Hills Cemetery involuntary bankruptcy is a case the Oregon Department of Justice has never dealt with before. It is Senior Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Wade’s first cemetery case in her 35 years as a lawyer.

"Its very shocking,” Wade said. “Both the condition of the cemetery, which was exceedingly shocking, and the real disregard for the people who were buried in the cemetery and the people who are still alive whose families are buried there.”

About a year and a half ago, the Department of Justice filed its very first involuntary bankruptcy against the Eternal Hills corporation. Wade said five parts of the cemetery were illegally transferred to five different companies by Gordon. The rights to be interred were also illegally transferred. Right now, a trustee has six different lawsuits within the bankruptcy, so she can get those six parts and then sell them as a whole to a buyer who will be willing to get the cemetery back to repair.

"We heard some negative talk today about it's too far gone. Nobody will buy it,” Wade added. “Commissioner DeGroot said he is very hopeful that he thinks there will be a buyer, and that the buyer will be able to bring the cemetery back up to its former state.”

Until then, people are allowed to take care of their own family’s graves but are warned to be careful since the ground and headstones are sinking. Commissioner DeGroot urged not to use any heavy machinery for this reason.

The Facebook group live streamed the entire meeting so people who couldn’t attend to hear the updates. The people that went got some answers but know there is a long road ahead to get Eternal Hills back to what it once was.

The Eternal Hills Guardians have organized a cemetery cleanup day scheduled for Saturday, June 29th at 8AM.

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