Jim Thorpe’s Body At Center Of Burial Dispute

Melissa Stusinski - Author

Sep. 5 2013, Updated 1:05 p.m. ET

Jim Thorpe’s body is at the center of a burial dispute between a town named after him in Pennsylvania and his three surviving sons.

The Native American baseball legend’s sons want his remains to be moved to tribal lands in Oklahoma where Thorpe was born. And they just may get their wish.

However, the town of Jim Thorpe won’t let his body go quietly, reports USA Today. Residents and business owners are raising money for the town to appeal later this month.

Thorpe was a football, baseball, and track star. He won the decathlon and penathlon in the 1912 Olympics and later starred as the Indian in low-budget movies.

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The athlete struggled with his finances in later years and died without a will in 1953. Jim Thorpe never actually set foot in the town that bears his name, notes Fox News. Instead, his third wife, Patricia, moved his body there after Oklahoma’s governor appeared reluctant to foot the bill for a monument.

So, Patricia took his body in the midst of his funeral service. She then made a deal with two merging towns to build a memorial to Jim Thorpe, including a mausoleum that contains his body. The athlete’s son, Bill Thorpe of Arlington, Texas, says the Pennsylvania burial is not what his father wanted.

Bill Thorpe explained that his father expressed the desire to be buried in Oklahoma. He added, “All this time we’ve wanted his body back because of the way that it was taken away from us. And we had no authority.”

US District Judge Richard Caputo ruled in favor of Jim Thorpe’s sons in April. But the town voted to appeal the ruling and arguments for the appeal are due on September 23.

As for Thorpe’s grandsons? It appears they are supportive of the town’s desire to keep their grandfather’s remains in Pennsylvania. John Thorpe, who lives in Lake Tahoe, California, explained that he took part in a sweat lodge ceremony three years ago.

While there, a medicine man came up to him and told him his grandfather spoke to him. John recalled the medicine man told him his grandfather was at peace and didn’t want “more pain created in my name.”

Ultimately, the appeal will likely decide where Jim Thorpe’s body will end up.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]


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