When many of us in Odessa think about what dying without a will might mean, we often don’t think about possible litigation over our remains, yet this is exactly what is happening to Jim Thorpe 60 years after his death. Thorpe, one of the most famous Native American athletes in our country’s history, died in 1953, but he died without a will. Although it appears that his surviving family members are not fighting about his estate or his money, they are fighting about the best possible place for his remains.
Thorpe was going to be buried in Oklahoma, where he was originally from, yet his widow had his body sent to Pennsylvania in the middle of his funeral service. The town she chose agreed to rename itself after Thorpe, as well as build a memorial for the famed athlete.
Had Thorpe died with a valid will, however, he could have clearly indicated what he wanted after his death. He could have listed where he wanted to be buried and what sort of memorial, if any, should be built. Without a will, his funeral service, burial and memorial were all dependent on what others claimed he wanted. For Texans looking to have some control over where they are buried, including that information in a will is quite important.
Yet, because Thorpe did not record his wishes in a will, his family is continuing to fight about where he should be buried. His sons are fighting to have his body moved back to Native American land in Oklahoma and a federal judge has recently ruled in favor of the sons.
The town in which Thorpe is currently interred has filed an appeal.
Source:The Pike County Courier, “Pa. town appeals to keep body of Jim Thorpe,” Michael Rubinkam, Sept. 24, 2013