Carlisle’s Attempt to Land Jim Thorpe’s Remains

John Luciew (pronounced Lucy), a reporter for Harrisburg’s Patriot-News, contacted me last week about the court case in which Jack Thorpe is trying to have his father’s remains brought to Oklahoma in perpetuity. Luciew was most interested in what I knew about Carlisle’s attempts, if any, to have Thorpe’s remains placed here back in 1953. I hadn’t looked into that before, so I had to do a little research. Freddy Wardecker, proprietor of Wardecker’s Menswear (formerly Blumenthal’s), gave me some information to go on and I was off to the races.

Jim Thorpe renewed acquaintances in 1951 when he was in Carlisle for the premier of his biopic, Jim Thorpe– All American. When he died just two years later, Carlislians wanted to honor him by locating his memorial here. A committee was formed, headed by attorney John B. Fowler (now deceased). The committee negotiated a location for the grave and monument near Indian Field at Carlisle Barracks where the young athlete made a name for himself when that facility was Carlisle Indian School. When Mauch Chunk entered the picture, Carlisle demurred, not wanting to get in a bidding war. In 1982, Sports Illustrated quoted Fowler as saying, “Pat wanted too much money. We felt like we were getting in a bidding war. We tried even after he died, but her price was too high.” Whether the Mauch Chunk group outbid others isn’t clear. What is clear is that they were actually able to raise the money and built the monument that stands there today.

Carlisle eventually placed a historic marker on the square next to the old courthouse. Some people think he is buried there but his remains are in the borough currently known as Jim Thorpe. Here is a link to the article Luciew wrote: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/08/town_of_jim_thorpe_is_ready_to.html

Photo by William Fischer, Jr.

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