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Funeral service for Paterno as thousands mourn
Question of the Day
STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Quiet mourners lined the route of Joe Paterno’s funeral procession Wednesday, watching with grief and reverence as the electric-blue hearse carrying the Penn State coach’s casket slowly drove by.
Some took pictures with their cell phones, or waved to his widow. Others craned their necks hoping for a better glimpse through the crowd sometimes four deep or more.
The private funeral and burial service capped another emotional day for a campus and community pained over Paterno’s death from lung cancer Sunday at age 85, and over the way his stellar career ended _ being fired by university trustees Nov. 9 in the wake of child sex-abuse charges against a former assistant.
Thousands of students, alumni and fans took to the streets in and around Penn State to say their last goodbyes to the football coach who grew into a beloved figure in Happy Valley, not only for his five undefeated seasons but for his love of the school and his generosity.
“He cared about the kids. He wanted to see us succeed. So for a lot of us, he became a grandfather-like figure,” Jordan Derk, a senior from York, said after the procession went past Beaver Stadium.
“He loved us and we loved him back,” Derk said. “So saying goodbye is very tough.”
Jay Paterno, the coach’s son and quarterbacks coach, sent a message to the mourners via Twitter.
“Thank you to all the people who turned out for my father’s procession,” he wrote. “Very moving.”
The elder Paterno won two national titles and a Division I record 409 games over 46 seasons as head coach. His cancer was disclosed just nine days after he was forced to leave the football program he had worked with since 1950.
Paterno’s family arrived about an hour before the funeral service on two blue school buses, the same kind the coach and his team rode to home games on fall Saturdays. His wife of nearly six decades, Sue, sat in the seat traditionally reserved for her husband and was first off the bus, followed by Jay.
Former defensive coordinator Tom Bradley walked to the service with NFL great Franco Harris. Also in attendance were other ex-NFL players including Matt Millen and Todd Blackledge, both now TV analysts. Nike founder Phil Knight and actor William Baldwin were there, too.
“Today’s Mass was a celebration. We laid to rest a great man,” Bradley said. “Not so much for the football victories … He meant so much to so many people.”
Charles Pittman, who played for Paterno in the 1960s, also was at the Mass.
“It really focused on the type of person Joe Paterno was _ his devotion to his family, his wife, his grandkids,” said Pittman, a senior vice president for publishing at Schurz Communications Inc., an Indiana-based company that owns television and radio stations and newspapers, and a member of the Board of Directors of The Associated Press.
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