While it is generally known that, at a ceremony in 1983, duplicates of the gold medals that Jim Thorpe won for his record-breaking performance in the Decathlon and Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics were presented to his family, it is much less known that in 1969, a series of duplicate medals of Thorpe's AAU victories were likewise struck and given to his family members.
Twenty-five of Thorpe's medals won in the years 1910 to 1912 were presented to the Oklahoma Historical Society on Sept. 13, 1969. Reproductions of the medals made for the Society by Diefes & Clust of Providence, R.I. were presented to his family members.
A set of these reproductions, which was given to Thorpe's sister Charlotte, and passed on to her son, John Thorpe, is now available for viewing at the main branch of the Jim Thorpe National Bank at 12 Broadway in Jim Thorpe.
Chuck Gentile, sports director at the U.S. Army War College at the Carlisle Barracks, and his wife, Wanda, presented the medals recently to Anne Marie Fitzpatrick and Raymond Brader of the Jim Thorpe Birthday Weekend Committee, who in turn, asked Craig Zurn, president of the Jim Thorpe National Bank, to store and display the medals.
Gentile, who has coordinated an annual Jim Thorpe Sports Day at the U.S. Army War College, got in contact with John Thorpe of South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and made him part of the opening ceremony and the awards presentation.
The Jim Thorpe Sports Day is held over a three-day period at the Carlisle Barracks, which had once been the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where Thorpe learned to play sports.
"We have an Olympic event every year at the War College," explained Gentile. "We bring in all six military war colleges: the Air Force from Alabama, the National and Industrial College of the Armed Forces from Washington, D.C., the Marines from Camp Quantico, Virginia, and the Navy from Rhode Island. They come in every year and they participate in 17 different events, from track and field to skeet and trap to basketball and golf.
"When John Thorpe came to the Sports Day, he brought the medals to show at the event. These were medals that he won in the years leading up to the 1912 Olympics," Gentile said. "They were college medals and club medals."
This year, John Thorpe offered the medals on loan to be shared between Carlisle and Jim Thorpe.
"We had it displayed in Carlisle," Gentile said. "Now they will be displayed in Jim Thorpe." The medals will stay in Jim Thorpe until they will be returned for the next Jim Thorpe Sports Day in Carlisle, April 26-28, 2012.
Gentile feels that remembering Thorpe is important to the military, because "the glory that they carry into battle is learned on the athletic field."
John Thorpe said that the loan of the medals is in appreciation of Gentile's repeated invitations to be a guest at the Jim Thorpe Sports Day.
"I was talking with Chuck and I had these medals for quite some time," Thorpe said. "I thought it would be a good idea if they stayed in Carlisle one year, and go to Jim Thorpe the next year, for the Sports Day in Carlisle and the Jim Thorpe Birthday in Jim Thorpe, Pa."
Asked about his feelings about the lawsuit by the sons of Jim Thorpe's second wife to relocate his remains to Oklahoma, John Thorpe replied, "Myself, my brother Michael and my cousin, Sharon, feel my grandfather is at rest where he is. He doesn't need to go anywhere.
"I went to a Sun Dance last year in Texas. The Sun Dance is a Lakota ceremony. During the Sun Dance, the Medicine Man brought me into the sweat lodge with the dancers and informed me that my grandfather had made contact with him, and told the Medicine Man that he is at peace and at rest and doesn't want any more pain created in his name," John Thorpe added.