Baltimore man struggles to keep late partner’s gravesite
By Steve Charing
For Kevin-Douglas Olive of Baltimore’s Seton Hill, the battle only began once his partner Russell Groff (l.) died from staph infection in November 2004 at the age of 26. Groff was buried in a rural Tennessee cemetery that the partners had agreed on in a will and burial agreements. Both were from Tennessee.
But Groff’s parents, Lowell and Carolyn Groff, had challenged the burial site and the right of Olive to be executor since July 2005. The expensive legal battles that have ensued and are continuing to strap the finances of Olive to the point he must sell his car and try to raise funds to ward off the Groffs’ challenges.
Russell Groff’s parents have been virulently anti-gay, which is ostensibly motivating them in their pursuit to deny their son’s expressed wishes. They even did a Fred Phelps-like protest during Knoxville, TN’s LGBT "Come Out Knoxville" celebration.
According to the Knoxville Metro Pulse, Carolyn Groff blames the "destructive gay lifestyle" for the death of her son, an aspiring playwright. "He wasn’t like that until he got involved in the theater group at Maryville College," she explains. Several other members of her Bible Baptist Church brought signs denoting that gays are destined to hell. Their brand of Christianity drove Russell away from the Christian church and joined Kevin as a Quaker after they met.
Conversely, Kevin-Douglas Olive parents were active in the Greater Knoxville PFLAG chapter where his mother served as treasurer. Kevin, too, was active in the chapter. But his family does not have the financial means to help Kevin in his series of lawsuits.
Although he is facing financial ruin, Kevin, 35, a French teacher, is determined to win for Russell what he had wanted. "He was the most important person in the world to me," he told Baltimore OUTloud. "I owe it to him that his wishes are carried out."
The legal battles, which are sapping his funds, are a two-pronged approach: one to impeach Kevin as an administrator of the estate and the other to overturn the will. He had won the initial round in a Baltimore City Orphans Court but Groff’s parents have appealed the decision so that they may move their son’s body to a family cemetery. During the appeal, the entire case must be presented from scratch.
Kevin says the legal fees are currently running $22,000. Thus far, he has raised only $5,000 to meet those obligations. He can use whatever financial help is available.
Contributions can be made to:
Kevin Olive Defense Fund
c/o Homewood Friends Meeting
3107 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218