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Eternal Hills flowers

Flowers adorn a headstone at the Eternal Hills cemetery.

The former Eternal Hills Cemetery owner cannot buy back property that fell into bankruptcy and disrepair under his care, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Robert Gordon, the cemetery’s former owner — and his family trust — cannot own the property because Gordon lacks the ability to obtain the state license necessary to run a cemetery, according to an opinion from Judge Thomas Renn of Oregon’s federal bankruptcy court.

“Mr. Gordon is unable to obtain the appropriate license or certificate of authority, therefore, as a matter of state law, Mr. Gordon may not be a purchaser of cemetery property,” Renn wrote in the opinion.

State law bars anyone without an appropriate cemetery license to purchase a cemetery, Renn wrote, siding with arguments presented by the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board. A 2019 settlement agreement stripped Gordon of his mortuary license and barred him from ever obtaining one.

The latest chapter of the years-long legal battle over the cemetery was sparked after Gordon’s trust put forward the largest bid in a telephone auction for the property last summer. In the auction, a $230,000 offer by Gordon’s trust bested a $225,000 offer from Eternal Hills Memorial Association and a $59,000 offer from Klamath County.

Within the next 30 days, Gordon must hand over deeds to the property to the cemetery’s court-appointed trustee, a court order accompanying Renn’s opinion stated. Additionally, within the next 60 days, Gordon’s family trust must sell the property to someone qualified to purchase it.

Renn’s opinion stated that should the timed court orders not be satisfied, then the trustee must sell to the “alternate buyer based on the back-up offer received at the telephone auction” last summer. It’s currently unclear who is listed as the backup offer from the auction.

Gordon and his trust submitted the bid with the intention of owning the property but allowing a separate operator to run it, later court filings stated.

Attorneys representing the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board questioned the legality of Gordon or a related entity owning the cemetery last fall. Renn heard oral arguments on the dispute in March and promised a ‘prompt’ decision.

— Reporter Rick Childress can be reached at (541) 851-7301 or Follow him on Twitter @RickOChildress

—           Reporter Rick Childress can be reached at (541) 851-7301 or Follow him on Twitter @RickOChildress