Penn State grieves loss of Joe Paterno, will honor his legacy
(AP, WJLA) - Anguished by an unthinkable scandal that shook a university and tarnished the proud football program, many in the Penn State community rallied around a common cause.
They mourned coach Joe Paterno's dismissal and questioned the motives and tactics of school leaders who pushed out the Hall of Famer in November in the wake of child sex abuse charges against a retired assistant coach.
Alumni, fans and students already racked by emotions were jolted by a much greater loss when Paterno died Sunday of lung cancer at age 85 - and the grieving process again could be complicated following two tense months that often had the Paterno family and the school at odds.
"We're going to miss him so much," said graduate Kellie Kerston. "He just meant so much to the university and to Penn State football."
Kerston drove three hours to Beaver Stadium so she could place flowers--and her daughter Serena, a handwritten letter--near Paterno's statue.
"She wrote, 'I love you Joe Pa,'" Kerston said.
Pennsylvania's governor called for all state flags to be flown at half staff Monday in honor of Joe Paterno.
"I feel like from the inside looking out that most people forget that he donated his whole life to the program. ... And everything that he donated to that school, people tend to look over that," defensive end Jack Crawford, who just completed his senior season with the Nittany Lions, said Sunday from Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala.
"It was tough to swallow. It was harder to swallow when he first got fired. It was a sad moment for the whole Penn State family."
A family seemingly torn Nov. 5 after retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with the first of dozens of counts of abuse allegations.
Sandusky has maintained his innocence and is awaiting trial. Paterno testified before a state grand jury investigating Sandusky, and authorities said he wasn't a target of the probe. It ended up being his undoing anyway.
Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation by reporting a 2002 allegation relayed by a graduate assistant to his university superior.
But the state's top cop chastised Paterno, among other school leaders, for failing to fulfill a moral duty to do more and take the allegation to police.
Paterno himself said he "wished he could have done more" when he announced his retirement plans the morning of Nov. 9 before getting ousted by the university Board of Trustees that evening.
"I am saddened to hear the news of Joe Paterno's passing. Joe was a genuinely good person," longtime Nebraska coach and current athletic director Tom Osborne said.
"Anybody who knew Joe feels badly about the circumstances. I suspect the emotional turmoil of the last few weeks might have played into it."
That turmoil stretched to Paterno's final days. Diagnosed with lung cancer days after getting fired, Paterno entered the hospital Jan. 13 for what his family then said was a minor complication from treatments that included radiation and chemotherapy.
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