Despite never having set foot in the town that now bears his name, the pro football pioneer and double-Olympic gold medalist provided the community a sense of purpose when it seemed to have none.
“It’s something that is really important,” said Counterman, of Lehighton, standing in the shadow of Thorpe’s red granite mausoleum. “It’s something that we’re going to miss if it’s not here.”
In 1954, the struggling mining towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were looking for a way to put themselves back on the map. They made a deal with Thorpe’s widow Patricia, united under Thorpe’s name, and gave him the fitting tribute and final resting place his native Oklahoma would not.