Jim Thorpe, PA
Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern times. After winning gold in both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, King Gustav V of Sweden said to Thorpe, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”
Thorpe was a collegiate All-American, NFL All-Pro & charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, and played baseball with three different MLB teams. He also played for a traveling professional basketball team.
When in Pennsylvania for hockey, we traveled through Jim Thorpe, PA. Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, the community made a deal with Jim Thorpe’s widow in 1953. After Thorpe’s funeral in Shawnee, OK, city officials of Mauch Chunk bought his remains from his third wife, and Thorpe’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania without the rest of the family’s knowledge.
I had mixed feelings about the monument to Thorpe in Penn. On one hand, the tribute, if a bit dated and weather-worn, was well done and seemed sincere. On the other hand, it was hard to get past the fact that Thorpe has become a road side attraction. Of all the turn-offs I’ve taken traveling, this one was as surreal as any.
Upon receiving Thorpe’s body, the communities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and were renamed Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. His tomb was built on a mound of dirt from his native Oklahoma and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, where he earned international fame.
In 2010, son Jack Thorpe sued in Federal Court to have his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma. After several court rulings favoring both sides, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 refused to hear the case, effectively ending the suit and leaving Thorpe’s remains in Pennsylvania. Jack Thorpe died in 2011.