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Jim Thorpe plans to add third Olympian statue

Published May 19. 2017 02:47PM

The third in a series of bronze statues depicting the athlete Jim Thorpe could soon be coming to the borough.

Borough council voiced its support last week for the Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame's Keystone Community Grant application, which would help fund the project.

"We wanted to do the baseball statue shortly after we did the second statue, but then the lawsuit came about and it was put on the back burner while we waited to see whether his remains would in fact be staying here," said Jack Kmetz.

"We couldn't ask people to donate with that uncertainty out there. When everything shook out in our favor, we filled out the grant application with the help of aides in Sen. John Yudichak's office, and we're coming up on the final stages of that process."

The statue, depicting Thorpe playing baseball, would join one of him with a football and another with a discus at a memorial site along Route 903 on the east side of the borough.

According to Brad Hurley, of Yudichak's office, the grant would bring in $70,000.

"These grants help communities upgrade a project already existing or restore one that is in disrepair," Hurley said. "We all know how important tourism is to this town. Jim Thorpe wouldn't be what it is today without that support. This funding would put the Hall of Fame group in good shape to get this project done."

In addition to the statue, Kmetz said the group hopes to put up 14 additional 4-foot posts with chain links to keep people from driving on the grounds.

Should additional funding be available, a registration booth allowing the borough and the Hall of Fame to track who is visiting and from where they are traveling.

"I get letters from people in Indiana and all over who have visited," Kmetz said. "I think something like that in the future would work well."

The Jim Thorpe Area Hall of Fame started the mausoleum project in 2001 at the request of Thorpe's daughter Grace, who wanted a life-size statue of her father. It took six years to raise the money and for the statue to come to fruition.

"We put the first one up in 2007 and there was a lot of positivity that came out of it," Kmetz said. "Then we took on the second, raised the money and got that up in 2011."

A five-year legal battle began in 2010 with two of Thorpe's sons, Richard and William, and the Sac and Fox Nation arguing that the Olympian's body was swiped by his third wife, Patricia, during a burial ceremony in Oklahoma and should be returned to his home state.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal and allowed for Thorpe's remains to stay in Pennsylvania.

"I want to thank you for hanging in there with the lawsuit and going to bat and standing tall for this town," Kmetz told council. "We needed people like you. Others may have folded their tents, but you stood strong."

Borough President Greg Strubinger also thanked Kmetz and the Hall of Fame for its support and lauded the efforts to bring a third statue to the town.

"The mausoleum is on borough property and the Hall of Fame has helped to maintain it and beautify it," Strubinger said. "It gives people a reason to stop here. It is nice to see more people attracted to the area and it is thanks to groups like this that it is happening."

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