Locals raise hue and cry as Eternal Hills cemetery falls into disrepair

A vast expanse of dead grass is the least of it. For many people whose family members are interred at Eternal Hills in Klamath Falls, it's the crumbling graves, vandalism, garbage and rodents that they can't stomach.

Posted: Apr. 25, 2019 5:53 PM
Updated: Apr. 25, 2019 7:28 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Frustration is mounting for many in the Klamath Falls community and beyond whose family members are interred at Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Klamath Falls, a site increasingly fallen into disrepair.

Two years ago, the cemetery's owners filed for bankruptcy. Since then, if not before, there has been little in the way of upkeep that hasn't been organized by volunteers.

Letter from Donna Day to state Rep. E. Werner Reschke:

Dear Representative Reschke,

I know that you have a lot on your plate right now with everything that is going on at the state level. These issues are a great concern of mine too.

Today I am writing you as a concerned citizen over the current state of Eternal Hills Cemetery. It is my understanding that the issue began in 2016 when the Mortuary Board ended the investigation into the practices of the owner and staff at the facility and revoked the license that had been issued to operate. As of this week the property is still the subject of a state mandated bankruptcy, which is 3 years later.

Sir, I no longer live in Klamath County, and only found out about the condition of the cemetery on Saturday, April 20th, and I was shaken to my core seeing it for the first time since 2010.

I kindly ask you to do what you can to expedite these bankruptcy proceedings so that the property may be sold to a reputable interment company.
I would also ask that you intercede with the trustee on the behalf of the families to get the grounds maintained by getting the water be turned back on whether that is city water or the irrigation district, and that a pest control company be allowed to come in for the critters that are destroying the grounds.

I know that currently there is no funding, including a go fund me account set up for any maintenance; I and many others would happily donate to see our families place of rest be restored to what it once was. There is a group who has a Facebook page “Eternal Hills Cemetery Cleanup Group” they are dedicated Klamath County citizens who have been working to keep the cemetery clean, and deserve a lot of praise for their dedication, time and efforts.

I am praying that you will do what you can to help with this incredibly sad situation, that is absolutely out of the control of the families.

Here is a link to the Herald and News post that I made on Easter, and the facebook page of the wonderful group that is cleaning up.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter,

Donna Day

At present, Eternal Hills is in a sorry state. Nearly all of the grass is dead. At least one grave has entirely caved in, and holes produced by water and tenacious ground squirrels have gone untouched. Headstones and memorial casks have been vandalized or stolen several times, and there is no one regularly tasked with cleaning up garbage or debris.

The words "terrible," "disrespectful" and "wrong" don't even begin to cut it, according to Claudia Sharp and Della Jones.

"It's very sad . . . look at this," said Sharp. "How can you even call this a cemetery? It's garbage. No grass, nothing. It's just absolutely horrifying."

Sharp's son Adam was murdered eight years ago. Now he rests at Eternal Hills. But according to Sharp, the problems began well before the owners' bankruptcy.

"I've had nothing but trouble. The first year he was here, his grave was sunken in and I made them fix it," Sharp said.

Sharp and Jones said that they have a relative that was supposed to be buried next to Adam. The cemetery staff buried her somewhere else, they said, and they have yet to find her.

"You just want to cry when you come out here, because so many graves are so bad that you can see the caskets," said Jones.

James Garland told NewsWatch 12 that he's one of the luckier ones — his mother's grave site and the plot he's eyed for himself aren't in terrible shape . . . but seeing the state of it all brings him to tears.

"Let's get this taken care of out here. It's not right!" Garland said.

With no one paid to care for the lawn, community members don't just leave flowers — they take care of the mowing themselves. All of this was supposed to be accounted for in the "eternal care package" for which these families paid.

Since the sprinklers don't run either, Karen Barnett brings buckets of water to her daughter's grave to keep the area green amongst all the brown.

"It's heartbreaking. It's just very very sad that people aren't taking care of it. It's like there is no respect for those who have passed," said Barnett. "There are people who have bought plots here and they are still alive and they're expecting it to be nice because they paid for it. And it isn't happening."

Everyone seems to hope that Klamath County or the State of Oregon can step in to return Eternal Hills to its former glory — or at least its basic dignity. But the property's legal status remains in limbo, tied up in protracted bankruptcy court battles and apparently passed into the purview of a local trustee.

On Thursday morning, NewsWatch 12 reached out to the state of Oregon's Mortuary Board, which has been involved in the ongoing Eternal Hills legal saga, for information on the site's current status. They did not respond prior to this article's publishing.

Donna Day lives in McMinnville, but she recently came back to Klamath Falls and visited Eternal Hills to pay her respects to relatives buried there. What she saw there appalled her — and it was a picture she had posted to Facebook showing a crumbled, caved-in grave site that inspired NewsWatch 12 to reach out.

Day said that she had penned an email to state Representative E. Werner Reschke, whose district includes Klamath Falls, and she wanted to share that information with NewsWatch 12's audience.

"I think it's the only way for this to come to a timely end," Day said. Her letter may be read in the sidebar [right].

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