Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Shall We Give Back Jim Thorpe's Body?
Bill White of The Morning Call wrote this -
The fight over Jim Thorpe's body is sufficiently goofy that I decided to resurrect a 2009 column I wrote the last time he was in the news. The latest development, in case you didn't see it, is that a federal judge says Carbon County's Jim Thorpe has to send his body back to Oklahoma, barring appeals. Here was my take on it back when Thorpe's sons started threatening suit:
In my dream, Jim Thorpe Borough Council called the public hearing to order.
"We're here tonight to consider the latest request from the family of Jim Thorpe to retrieve his remains from our cemetery and put it in Oklahoma on the Sac and Fox burial grounds," explained council President John McGuire. "We thought it would be helpful to get the sense of our community on this matter. Mr. Solicitor, can you lay out the background for the audience?"
"Well," said lawyer James Nanovic, "the family has threatened to sue us in federal court if we don't relinquish the corpse. Assuming they go through with it, we need to decide whether to fight this or turn Mr. Thorpe over to them."
McGuire said, "I see we've drawn a nice crowd. If anyone out there would care to comment on this matter, please come to the microphone. Ma'am, you can go first."
"Thank you," said an elderly woman. "I want to say that we should fight this family with everything we've got. I just purchased a box of personalized stationery, and it all has my address in Jim Thorpe on it. If we have to change back to Mauch Chunk, I'm out $11."
"Thank you. Everyone should understand that we wouldn't necessarily have to change our name back to Mauch Chunk. Considering that Mr. Thorpe has been buried here for 50-some years, I think we could reasonably maintain that name. Sir?"
"I hate to see the town run up a bunch of legal fees," said the resident. "Couldn't we quietly give them the body back and just keep the gravestone and memorial here? Slip someone else in there in the middle of the night, and tourists won't know the difference. Heck, you can bury me there, if you want, once I'm dead. My family would appreciate saving all those fees."
Mayor Ronald Confer said, "I wouldn't be comfortable with tricking people into thinking we still have Jim Thorpe here."
"Well then, just give them his head and we'll keep the rest of his body. Like Ted Williams. Jim was better known for his running anyway. We'll have his most important half."
"I'm afraid this discussion is getting a bit grotesque," said McGuire. "The family has given no indication that they would be willing to settle for Mr. Thorpe's head. They want his entire corpse so it can be buried properly. Ma'am?"
A woman said, "I think I speak for many younger residents of Jim Thorpe when I say that most people under 90 never heard of the guy anyway. Let's just give him back and bury some more relevant celebrity here, maybe someone who died recently. We need young blood."
"Patrick Swayze!"' someone called out. "We could be Swayzeville or Ghost Town."
"Bob Denver!" someone else yelled.
"That name's taken."
"Oh. Hey, Soupy Sales just died a few weeks ago! I bet we could get him cheap."
"Ricardo Montalban died this year. I loved him in that "Star Trek' movie. What pecs for a guy his age."
"Folks, please … "
"Why's everyone suggesting men?" a woman in the audience said. "We've been named after a man long enough. Let's bury a famous woman for a change. Somebody distinguished, substantial."
"Anna Nicole Smith! We'll draw tourists in droves."
"I was thinking more along the lines of Eleanor Roosevelt or Helen Keller."
"Mama Cass!" someone yelled. "She was substantial. The deli could name a ham sandwich after her."
McGuire said, "I think we're way ahead of ourselves. I don't want us to start trolling Hollywood for dead celebrities. It's demeaning. Sir?"
"This is typical of the cut-and-run pantywaists that have been settlin' here," said the unshaven old man in a flannel shirt. "Jim Thorpe is here, and I'm damned if I'll give him up without a fight. I think we should organize a militia to patrol his grave just to make sure them body-snatchin' Okies don't sneak in here one night, dig him up and run off with him."
"There's been no indication … "
"You people make me sick. That corpse is our heritage, and we need to defend it with our lives, if necessary! I don't want to live in Mama Cassville!"
The solicitor said, "Sir, let's not get carried away. This is a legal matter. We have lived up to the terms of our agreement with Mr. Thorpe's widow, and I think we … "
"Legal shmegal!" yelled the old man. "They'll have to pry Jim Thorpe out of my cold, dead hands! I'm gonna to get my rifle, and just watch what happens to any fancy lawyers who came traipsin' around. Who's with me!?"
A shout went up in the audience, and everyone ran out the door.
McGuire said. "I hope they don't shoot anybody."
"Never mind that," said another councilman. "I'm calling Michael Jackson's father."