Jim Thorpe’s Birthday Celebration is no surprise

A ceremony to honor legendary athlete Jim Thorpe will be held at his burial site on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Tomorrow should be a beautiful day in Jim Thorpe and not just because the sun is expected to shine after a week of rain.

The spirit of the enchanting town that greets visitors as they wind around the Lehigh Gorge will also shine tomorrow as it pays tribute to the legendary Native American athlete for whom it is named, just as it has done for 15 years.

A Native American ceremony and the unveiling of a new statue honoring the “greatest athlete in the world” will be held at the site where the Jim Thorpe Memorial Mausoleum Committee in 1957 laid earth from the Prague, Oklahoma farm where Thorpe was born, as well as soil from Saupula, Oklahoma, the Polo Grounds (the former home of the New York Giants, where Thorpe played), the pitching mound of Indian Field at the Carlisle Indian School, as well as the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden where Thorpe won the decathlon and pentathlon.

The ceremony is part of the 15th annual Jim Thorpe Birthday Celebration. Thorpe was born on May 28, 1888. Other Birthday weekend festivities include Native American dance demonstrations outside the train station, vendors, crafts, concerts and more. http://www.jimthorpe.org/festivals/jtbirthday.htm

The birthday party was a surprise, however, to 82-year-old William Thorpe, according to a May 18 New York Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/sports/honoring-thorpe-as-they-see-fit-statue-in-one-city-lawsuit-in-another.html

Thorpe and his brother Richard, along with the Sac and Fox tribe recently joined a lawsuit against the town initiated by the athlete’s youngest son, Jack Thorpe, who died in February, to remove the Olympic hero and return him to be buried in Oklahoma.

Thorpe’s eldest grandson, Michael Koehler, will be in town for the tributes.

Koehler, as his mother Charlotte did before her death, recognizes the town as “honorable hosts” of his grandfather’s remains and encouraged the town to continue to challenge the lawsuit with the same “fighting spirit” as Jim Thorpe, according to the Times article.

Rest in Peace, Bright Path.

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