Newcomer Buying Mount Hope Cemetery

May 19, 2011
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Ren and Theresa Newcomer, owners of Topeka’s Penwell-Gabel Funeral Homes and Cemetery, are in the process of buying the financially-strapped Mount Hope Cemetery.

Ren Newcomer said Wednesday he had signed a letter of intent to purchase the cemetery at 4700 S.W. 17th but details had yet to be finalized.

“We consider Mount Hope to be one of the finest cemeteries in Kansas, and we look forward to the opportunity to return it to a condition that honors those who rest there and that Topekans can be proud of,” he said.

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Newcomer, a funeral director in Topeka since 1975, said he and his wife intend to re-establish trust funds to maintain the cemetery and to return it to a sound financial condition.

“We will also immediately begin the process of clean-up and repair necessary to return Mount Hope to its place as a beautiful resting place for future generations,” he said.

The Newcomers own four Penwell-Gabel Funeral Homes in Topeka and the Penwell-Gabel Cemetery at 3616 S.W. 6th, as well as funeral homes in eight other states.

The 160-acre Mount Hope Cemetery has been in operation since 1908. It was governed by a board of directors consisting of local businessmen and businesswomen before going into receivership last year amid serious financial difficulties.

Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis in October signed an order prepared by the Kansas attorney general’s office and attorneys for Mount Hope Cemetery appointing Wichita lawyer Ed Nazar as a receiver to map out long-range plans for the cemetery, run its day-to-day operations and put it up for sale or lease.

Ren Newcomer said Wednesday that an agreement to purchase the cemetery had been reached between the Newcomers; their attorney, John Frieden; Nazar; and the Kansas attorney general’s and secretary of state’s offices.

Newcomer said Theis would be asked to approve the agreement once its details are finalized.

Newcomer said he personally considered it “extremely important to acquire the cemetery and prevent it from further deterioration.”

He added, “We’re just not able to make all the improvements necessary over the next few months, but over the next few years people will see the cemetery being brought back to its former grandeur.”

Newcomer said he and his wife believe in “safe, secure and conservative” financial management of funeral homes and cemeteries.

“Our Penwell-Gabel Cemetery has a trust fund in excess of $2 million, which allows us to maintain the cemetery to the level it deserves and assures that maintenance for generations to come,” he said.

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