Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4   September 2011

A Fight For Jim Thorpe's Body
Condensed by Native Village

 Jim Thorpe's rose-colored granite tomb sits alongside Pennsylvania Route 903 in Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Jim was named the #1 Multi-Sport NFL Player of all time

Thorpe went on to play for half a dozen professional football teams.Pennsylvania: It's been 50 years since the death of sports star, Jim Thorpe, Now his sons, the Sac and Fox tribe, and a small Pennsylvania town are fighting over his remains.

Thorpe is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, a former Major League Baseball player, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist
. He died of a heart attack in 1953. In 1957, his body was laid to rest in Jim Thorpe, Pa.

Now Thorpe's children and his tribe are suing the town. They want his remains returned to Jim's home state of Oklahoma. But Jim Thorpe, PA, officials want his remains to stay put. The community believes it has the rights to Thorpe's body.

"This guy has a whole town named after him," explains Jack Kmetz, president of Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame. "He has a bank named after him. He has a post office. He has his own ZIP code.  This is not your average high school varsity letter winner laying here. This is an international icon."

The local high school is also named after Thorpe, whose achievements at the 1912 Olympics inspired the school's mascot, the Olympians.

Although Thorpe did attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, he never visited the town named after him. So how did the Oklahoma native end up buried in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains?

It all started after Thorpe's death, when his widow offered local town officials an unusual deal. She wanted more than a simple burial for her husband. She wanted a town that would erect a memorial and capitalize on Thorpe's popularity.

In return, two small neighboring towns merged into one and renamed themselves "Jim Thorpe." They agreed to build a public shrine for the famous athlete.

"The community of Jim Thorpe, we have a signed contract by his widow," Kmetz explains. "We have the rights to possession of [Thorpe's] body."

Thorpe's rose-colored granite tomb now sits on a grassy field alongside Route 903. Two larger-than-life bronze statues of Thorpe holding a football and discus also stand guard.

William and Richard Thorpe are Jim's only surviving children. They joined in a lawsuit against the town for possession of their father's remains. William says he never supported his stepmother's plan.

"If your dad turned around and said, 'Hey, I want to be cremated and my ashes put somewhere,' you would abide by it, wouldn't you?" Thorpe asked. "Dad's wish was that he be buried in Oklahoma. And that's what we're trying to accomplish."

From Native Village:
A Different View of Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe's Rediscovered Photograph
The Team That Invented Football


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