In June, a lawsuit was filed by the son of Olympian Jim Thorpe which seeks the transfer of his remains from our local town named after him to the state of Oklahoma.
Jack Thorpe filed the suit in federal court.
After the suit was filed, a columnist for Sports Illustrated magazine concluded, "Maybe it's time for Jim Thorpe, Pa. to pass him on - the body, not the spirit. The soul of the town will remain."
The Wall Street Journal ran a large front page piece proclaiming that many residents don't care if the body is returned and attempted to make hilarity of the situation by expounding on a resident's suggestion that the town might name itself after a deceased rock singer, Jim Morrison, if the body is given to Oklahoma.
It appears Jim Thorpe Borough Council will defend itself in the lawsuit, which is the proper thing to do.
The national publications wrote the articles with a slant to them. As a result, some important components to the controversy were not mentioned.
Foremost, the lawsuit filed by Jack Thorpe not only seeks his father's body, but also "judgment against defendants in an amount to be determined at trial, in favor of plaintiff, constituting compensatory and punitive damages..."
It also seeks court and attorney fees for Jack Thorpe.
Just how much money would this be? How much would it cost the town? It's anyone's guess.
It must also be mentioned that there were other children of Jim Thorpe, some who have publicly declared their preference that the grave of the athlete be left intact. A grandson has gone on record as opposing Jack Thorpe's action.
Jack Thorpe, the lone surviving child, is acting alone. It's not a family effort to have Thorpe's body dispatched to Oklahoma, a state which refused to grant him a fitting final resting place in 1953 when he died. There's no Native American tribe enjoining Thorpe in the suit. It's just Jack Thorpe.
This isn't about the mere pride of the town to keep its namesake. The town made a commitment to honor the athlete with an appropriate memorial and in name. It has kept its side of the agreement.
The town spent a lot of money to get the body of Thorpe here when no other town seemed interested. There was a cost involved in changing the name from Mauch Chunk to Jim Thorpe.
If the body is taken away, shouldn't the borough be reimbursed for what it has spent?
Jim Thorpe, the town, would survive if the body of the athlete were moved. This is a mute point, though. One which national writers over emphasize.
The point is that the wife of Jim Thorpe wanted a decent resting place for the great athlete. Children of the immortal athlete have visited the site and endorsed what the town has done. Native Americans have held ceremonies and consecrated the ground in which Thorpe lies so he will forever have a restful spirit.
The town has no choice but to oppose the lawsuit of Jack Thorpe, and to oppose sending his body to Oklahoma just to appease one individual.
By Ron Gower