- Associated Press - Saturday, January 28, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - For decades, Joe Paterno was the public face of Penn State. For almost as long, his near-constant companion, wife Sue, seemingly wielded as much influence.

As tributes flowed this week for the late Hall of Fame coach, the extent of Sue Paterno’s sway on her husband, the football program and the university became obvious, for those watching in or outside of Happy Valley.

She served as a host to potential recruits at the family home, a tutor to players, a counselor to concerned parents who entrusted their football-playing sons to her husband, and a prodigious fundraiser for the university and charitable organizations.

While a bronze statue outside Beaver Stadium memorializes the legacy of the winningest coach in major college football, it was Sue Paterno who was her husband’s rock.


“For my dad, he never doubted my mother,” their son Jay said at Thursday’s memorial service for his father. “My mother had it all and continues to have it all. He could do his job and we could share him with Penn State because he knew my mother was in complete command on the home front.”

Through the recent months of scandal that engulfed the university and a week’s worth of private and public memorials for Penn State’s longtime coach, other lasting images of Sue Paterno have emerged:

_She showed her spunk by coming to her husband’s defense with a quick callback to a trustee after Joe Paterno was unceremoniously fired via a phone call. “After 61 years he deserved better,” Sue Paterno said according to The Washington Post. Then, she hung up.

_A short time after being dismissed, she stood arm in arm with her husband as they stepped outside their modest State College home and greeted hundreds of well-wishers.

_And at the end of an emotional week in State College, Sue Paterno appeared composed, only occasionally fighting back tears, with her arms around some of her grandchildren as about 12,000 people gathered for public memorial. She rose from her seat and joined in a standing ovation as speakers defended his legacy against criticism that he failed to do more when told about an alleged child sexual assault involving one of his former assistants.

The Paternos were about as close to royalty as you can get in Happy Valley _ a modest first family of college football.

“They went everywhere together,” former quarterback Daryll Clark said this week. “They were one and one.”

Joe Paterno died Sunday at age 85, less than three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Joe Paterno indeed had an indomitable will with one exception: when his will ran counter to that of his wife and my mother,” Jay Paterno said in a light moment from the memorial service for the man who became lovingly known around town as “JoePa.”

Save for a few moments, 71-year-old Sue Paterno looked composed for a widow who just lost her husband under already emotional circumstances. Their family announced Paterno had been diagnosed with cancer just 10 days after he was ousted on Nov. 9 as Penn State coach following 46 seasons.

Sue and Joe Paterno were side by side on the family’s front walk the night of the dismissal as he tried to console fans upset that he had been fired in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant Jerry Sandusky.

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