Many times, people say no one from their little town will grow up and be famous, well as it stands one of the original members of the Pine Village Villagers did have a famous life. Lee N. Brutus, the great uncle of Eric and Susan Brutus, current Pine Village residents.
Eric was the one to recall some of his memories of his great uncle, who he just thought of as a regular guy. Eric grew up listening to his uncle tell stories of playing football with Jim Thorpe, and the adventures of trying to guard Thorpe on the field.
“We’ve got a video tape of Uncle Lee telling the story,” Eric said. “He said he’d just stay out of the way on the field.”
Another time he described Thorpe running faster than a deer.
Brutus recalled another story when his grandfather and Uncle Lee went to see an early airplane display in Attica. They took a connecting train from Pine Village. When they came home, their mother asked what they thought of this excursion. According to Uncle Lee his brother just shrugged his shoulders, but for Lee it was a spark of aviation adventures yet to come. The plane they had seen was a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane.
Brutus explained that his great-uncle was an aviator in World War I and went on to become an inventor of aviation equipment.
He went on to become a vice president and sales manager of Waco Aviation, an airplane company that hit its peak in the 1950s, and Brutus shared one more Thorpe story.
“Uncle Lee stepped into an elevator in New Jersey, and instantly recognized Thorpe at the back of the crowded space,” Brutus recalled, having heard the story a time or two. “Thorpe was known to be a man of few words at times. Uncle Lee said, ‘Are you Jim Thorpe?’ and Thorpe nodded. Uncle Lee then asked if he remembered his times in Pine Village, and Thorpe responded with another nod and a grin.”
That was last he ever saw Jim Thorpe, Eric explained. But adventures continued for Uncle Lee as he and his wife would have cocktails with the movie director, Victor Fleming of Gone With the Wind (1939). Eric also heard several stories of Uncle Lee riding horses with Clark Gable.
“It was amazing to learn so much from Uncle Lee,” Eric shared. These memories of his Uncle Lee became so much more special when he flipped through the pages of his family’s encyclopedia set — the paper version of Google, Eric noted, and found Jim Thorpe for an eighth grade oral report. Making those stories from his Uncle Lee even more connected to Pine Village. Uncle Lee lived to be 103 and passed away in 1998. He’s buried in Ohio.