The borough council voted to appeal the ruling to the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and written arguments are due Sept. 23. The town has found support from Jim Thorpe's grandsons, who say it has done right by him.
“The town has done nothing but honor and respect and love my grandpa,” said John Thorpe, of Lake Tahoe, Calif. “The state of Oklahoma did not want to erect a mausoleum or do anything to honor him. They weren't willing to do what the town of Jim Thorpe did.”
Thorpe said he was taking part in a sweat lodge ceremony in Texas three years ago when, unbidden, a medicine man told him his grandfather had made contact and said, “I am at peace, and I want no more pain created in my name.”
He said that helped confirm his belief that his grandfather's tomb should remain where it is.
So what will happen if Thorpe's body is no longer there?
The borough on the western edge of Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains is popular with tourists and frequently appears on lists of America's prettiest towns. But that is due largely to its vibrant main street, stunning mansions and location at the bottom of a steep gorge carved by the Lehigh River. Few come specifically to visit Thorpe's roadside memorial, and the town's economy certainly isn't dependent on its connection to the man.
But the psychological loss will be undeniable. The athlete who never set foot in the town named after him has become an important part of its identity. The high school's athletic teams are named, after all, the Olympians.
“Look, if it turns out that Jim Thorpe is going to be transported somewhere else, then let's accompany him and make it as graceful and honorable a transition as it could possibly be,” said Dan Hugos, co-owner of the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe.
“And let's shake the hands of the new people who are going to be caring for him. But we will still continue to do our part to remember who he was and remember his name.”