Joe Paterno tributes start
(AP, WJLA) - Decked out in Penn State hats and jackets, students and townspeople stood in a line more than a quarter-mile long Tuesday to pay their respects to Joe Paterno, the coach who for nearly a half century was the face of their university.
Mourners waited for hours along a main campus artery for the chance to file past Paterno's closed casket at the campus spiritual center during a public viewing session. Some departed crying. All were moved.
It was a somber pilgrimage for those paying their final respects. Current and past Penn State players came from across the country swarming the spiritual center on campus for one final goodbye to the man many refer to as a father.
"He was my hero. He was my hero. I had to come," said a sobbing Gloria Spicer, who was freshman in 1966 when Paterno started his first season as head coach at Penn State. The 85-year-old Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football history, died Sunday of lung cancer. He had been fired just days before learning of his diagnosis in November.
"He was a teacher to me," Spicer said. "He taught me to be a better person and a better teacher."
Members of the public were preceded by Paterno family members - the coach's son, Scott, was seen at the event as was Jay Paterno, who tried quietly to blend in among those gathering at his father's statue and savor the outpouring of emotion.
"I didn't want the wait to go by with so much stuff going on," Jay Paterno said. "A lot of the preparations and planning and things going on, you get lost. I wanted to feel the emotions, I wanted to see other people's emotions."
Despite the bitter end of his legendary career, family members say his final moments were anything but.
"His eyes would light up and he'd nod," Paterno said. "And when we were praying, you'd see him mouthing the words even though he had a ventilator."
The Penn State football team, both present and past, were there as well. Players wore dark suits and arrived in three blue Penn State buses, the same ones that once carried Paterno and the team to games at Beaver Stadium on fall Saturdays. Players took turns watching over the body of their beloved coach.
"I would go to see him after everything that had hapened and he would smile you know and make jokes and let me know that everything was going to be all right," said player Darryl Clark.
Among that group was Mike McQueary. As a graduate assistant to Paterno in 2002, he went to the coach saying he had witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower at the Penn State football building. Paterno relayed that to his bosses - including the head of campus police - but university trustees felt he should have done more, and it played into their decision to oust the longtime coach on Nov. 9.
That came four days after Sandusky was arrested on multiple child sex-abuse counts.
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