STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Flowers and mementos left by supporters adorned Joe Paterno’s gravesite Tuesday, a year after the longtime Penn State coach’s death, while at the spot where a bronze statue of him used to stand, a makeshift sign of cardboard flapped in a cold wind.
“Joseph Paterno. Always remembered. Always a legend,” read the sign outside Beaver Stadium and attached to a tree with white wire.
The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer Jan. 22, 2012, at the age 85. Besides the bouquets and signs, at least 150 supporters also marked the anniversary of his death with a candlelight vigil on a frigid evening at a downtown State College mural that includes a depiction of Paterno.
He died more than two months after being fired in the frantic days after the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges in November 2011. His legacy remains a sensitive topic for groups of alumni, former players and residents.
“I definitely think that everything that has happened isn’t at all indicative of the kind of man that he was,” said Bridget Beromedi, 32, of State College, who wore a shirt with Paterno’s image. She held up a sign that read “JoePa. Legends never die.”
She added that Paterno’s role in the scandal “got totally overblown because of his name. He got an unfair deal.”
Organizers lit candles inside white or blue paper bags, many inscribed with handwritten messages from supporters. The gathering slowly broke up within 45 minutes after mural artist Michael Pilato thanked attendees, several of whom wore “JVP” buttons on their winter parkas.
A family spokesman said the Paternos wouldn’t take part in public gatherings Tuesday.
A year ago, the campus was flooded with mourners. Commemorations were much smaller this year with temperatures in the teens.
Supporters like Dan Hamm, a freshman from Williamsport, have said Paterno’s 46-year career as a whole should be taken into consideration, including his focus on academics.
“We wanted to pay our respects. We wanted to celebrate who he was as a person,” Hamm said after visiting Paterno’s grave at a State College cemetery.
Victim 6 sues Penn State, Sandusky, his charity: A young man who testified at the child sex abuse trial of Sandusky last summer is suing him, his charity and the university.
The man was called Victim 6 in court papers. He sued Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, claiming Sandusky’s behavior was “ratified” by The Second Mile charity and Penn State. He’s seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
Penn State has declined to comment. The Second Mile says it will respond “through the legal process.” Messages for Sandusky’s civil lawyers haven’t been returned.
Victim 6 testified Sandusky called himself “the Tickle Monster” and grabbed him inside a university shower in 1998. His mother’s complaint triggered a police investigation but resulted in no charges.