Outpouring of grief at Penn State after death of legendary coach

January 23rd, 2012 by Staff

www.cnn.com – Penn State students and alumni held a candlelight vigil late Sunday to honor and remember Joe Paterno, the iconic former football coach.

Paterno, 85, died Sunday at a State College, Pennsylvania, hospital, according to his family. He had been suffering from lung cancer and had recently broken his pelvis.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today,” said the statement. “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”

Students braved freezing temperatures to attend the vigil on the lawn of the Old Main building on Penn State’s campus. They held candles, locked arms, and sung the school’s alma mater to say goodbye.

Later, they walked over to a statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, which has become a sort of makeshift memorial.

“He’s more than a coach; his family’s more than a family,” said Bethanna Edmiston, a local resident and alumna who met her husband at Penn State.

“It’s extremely difficult for the whole Nittany nation,” she said. “Unless you’re part of Penn State, you just don’t understand what it means.”

Share your thoughts on Paterno’s death

Earlier on Sunday, many fans were seen crying as they stood at the statue. It features Paterno with his index finger outstretched in the “No. 1″ gesture. A quote from Paterno, who spent 61 years at Penn State, is on the wall behind the statue.

“They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone,” the quote says. “I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

Edmiston said she moved to State College at age 8, as Paterno took the reins at Penn State.

“Our family thanks Penn Staters, students & all people for prayers & support for my Dad,” Paterno’s son, Jay Paterno, tweeted Sunday, “He felt your support in his fight.”

Family statement: “He fought hard until the end”

The gathering at the statue has been ongoing since Saturday night, after a family spokesman said Paterno’s condition had worsened.

Some shoveled snow so others could walk up and touch Paterno’s outstretched hand on his statue.

Signs, flowers and candles surrounded the statue, along with photographs of Paterno. “You’re our hero,” one said. Another one, flanked by candles, simply said: “Coach.”

Jay Paterno tweeted Saturday night that he drove by the statue, and that the love and support inspired his father.

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