“Mobituaries”: The final resting place of sports superstar Jim Thorpe

Nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains lies a charming neighborhood once called the “Switzerland of America.” But the locals call it something else now: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

You can’t miss the name if you try. There is a Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank, a Jim Thorpe Market, a Jim Thorpe Trolley, and a Jim Thorpe Area High School whose sports teams are called the Olympians.

City of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

CBS News

Mayor Michael Sofranco is a lifelong Thorper: “In 1970, when we’d go somewhere and they’d say, ‘Where are you from?’ And I’d say, ‘Jim Thorpe,’ they’d say, ‘I don’t want your name. I want to know where you live!” And now what’s happened is that when I go somewhere and they say, ‘Where are you from?’, and I say, ‘Jim Thorpe,’ they say, ‘Oh my God, I love this town! ‘”

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the city is named after Jim Thorpe, the man who became world famous after the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, where he won gold medals in athletics. “I think being crowned ‘World’s Greatest Sportsman’ by the King of Sweden is one of the great moments of my life,” Thorpe once said.

Simon and Schuster

“To call Jim Thorpe the greatest athlete in American history is not pretentious, because no athlete before or since has done what he has done,” said writer David Maraniss. He would know; his biography of Thorpe, The Road Lit by Lightning (released by CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster, a division of Paramount Global) tells Thorpe’s remarkable story. “No one has had the triad of being the first NFL football great, decathlon and pentathlon gold medalist and major league baseball player,” Maraniss said. “And he was great at ballroom dancing. He was a good skater, a great swimmer. Lacrosse, definitely. People said he was good at marbles!’

The athlete also became an actor, in films such as “Fighting Buffalo Bill” and “Wagon Master”. And thanks in part to his own activism, Native American characters are increasingly being played by Native Americans (including himself).

Prague, Oklahoma, was originally Indian Territory when Thorpe was born there in 1887, raised on the Sac and Fox Reservation. His birth name Wa-Tho-Huk translates to “Bright Path”.

Jim had passed by the time Anita Thorpe showed up, but she spent her life learning her grandfather’s story. “People would come up to us and say, ‘Are you related?’ I still get it to this day,” she said. to be a way.’

Rocca asked, “If your last name is Thorpe, must you be good at sports?”

“You don’t,” she replied. “None of his descendants could ever take his place.”

And back in Jim Thorpe’s town, where tourism is booming, the story of Jim Thorpe the man gets a little complicated. For one thing, Thorpe himself never set foot in the city while he was alive.

After he died in 1953, most of his family wanted him buried in Oklahoma. But his widow had other ideas, and she made a deal: she gave her late husband’s body to a poor area of ​​the Poconos, and thus the resort town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania was born.

The final resting place of superstar athlete Jim Thorpe in a Pennsylvania town that now bears his name.

CBS News

How did this happen? For the full story of America’s greatest athlete and how he ended up buried in a city he never lived in, listen to Mo Rocca’s Mobituaries podcast.

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The story produced by Young Kim. Editor: Chad Cardin.

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