After weeks of dreary, cloudy skies, the spirit of Jim Thorpe must have been smiling down upon the town that bears his name Saturday as beautiful crisp, clear, sunny blue skies greeted all who gathered at his earthly resting place to honor him for his 123rd birthday by unveiling and dedicating a larger than life bronze statue.
The centerpiece of this celebration was a large tarp-clad object near the passing highway on the extensively re-landscaped grounds of his mausoleum.
In the presence of townspeople, native Americans, local politicians, celebrities, and former Olympians the tarp was removed revealing the second bronze statue to be placed on the site.
The second statue showing Jim Thorpe throwing the discus joins the other bronze statue of him playing football which was completed in 2007.
The statues of Jim Thorpe were designed and cast by sculptor Edmond Shumpert of Eupora, Mississippi.
They have been made possible through the efforts of members of the Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame and the many corporate sponsors.
The Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame was formed in 1989 and today has more than 1,000 members.
Members of the Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame Committee are: Jack Kmetz, President; Jim Zurn, Vice President; Ron Sheehan, Secretary; Craig Zurn, Treasurer; Amy Behrens, Administrative Secretary; Randy Rabenold; Angie Konstas; Charles Getz; Wilmer Redline; Dave Zurn; and Don Herman.
Jim Thorpe was called "the Greatest Athlete in the World" by King Gustav of Sweden during the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden where Thorpe won gold medals in both the Pentathlon and Decathlon.
So, fittingly, several former Olympians were present among the honored guests who gathered to honor this great athlete, they were: Cynthia Stinger, U.S. Olympic Committee - Manager Olympians Association; Brenda Borgh Bartlett, Pennsylvania Olympian (1976 Olympic Team Swimming Member); J.K. Smith, 1948 Rowing Team Gold Medalist; and Steve Kirk, Pennsylvania Olympian (1984-1988 Olympic Team Member).
Also present and making comments were: Michael Sofranko, Mayor of Jim Thorpe; Charles Getz, Carbon County Commissioner; John T. Yudichak, Pennsylvania State Senator; Doyle Heffley, Pennsylvania State Representative; Candice Kelly, News Anchor WBRE-TV 28; Sofia Ojeda, News Reporter WNEP-TV 16; and Kim Bell, General Manager Blue Ridge Communications TV 13.
Also among the honored guests were: Ann Marie Fitzpatrick, member, Chamber of Commerce; Ray Brayder, member, Chamber of Commerce; Chuck Gentile, Sports Director, Carlisle U.S. Army War College; and Elizabeth Knouse, Director of Family Morale, Welfare & Recreation Carlisle U.S. Army War College.
The program was opened with Native American dances and ceremonies performed by Don Wild Eagle and members of the Wolf clan.
One of the first speakers, state Rep. Heffley read a proclamation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives proclaiming May 21 as Jim Thorpe Day in the state.
After Hall of Fame President Jack Kmetz acknowledged and greeted the event's guests of honor, he went on to speak of how the difficult economic times that we are now experiencing have made it more and more difficult to raise the funding for these statues.
Hoping to raise the needed funding for the third and final bronze statue in the series which would be of Jim Thorpe playing baseball, Kmetz noted that the Hall of Fame would like to see community support for the project and in the future they will be soliciting funds through letters mailed out the community.
Helping to get the momentum rolling on that project, when his turn came to speak, Sen. Yudichak started by announcing that the "Yudichak Family Fund" would be donating $1,000 towards the third statue in the series.
The final speaker for the dedication was Jim Thorpe's Grandson Michael Koehler, who stated that while he respects the opinion of his late Uncle Jack Thorpe who fought to have Jim Thorpe's remains removed from the town, he absolutely does not agree with him.
Koehler thanked the people of Jim Thorpe for all that they have done to honor his grandfather and said that he firmly desires to see his remains stay where they are.