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Penn State Greater Allegheny says goodbye to Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno will be long remembered for more than his coaching prowess and record-setting career.

"One must recognize that Joseph Paterno has achieved immortality in that he will always live in the minds of Penn Staters, and the minds of those who recognize Penn State," Penn State Greater Allegheny chancellor Dr. Curtiss Porter said during a candlelight vigil on the McKeesport campus Monday night. "We have students and former students, members of the community, all of us who have come to honor this gentleman, and what he has contributed to our university, to our nation, to all to whom he has come in contact."

Paterno, who died Sunday from lung cancer at age 85, is the winningest football coach in Division I with 409 victories and two national titles. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

Freshman David Buckholtz welcomed those in attendance and introduced Porter.

Approximately 40-50 people stood at the Lion Shrine holding their hands in front of candles, trying to block the wind as "Amazing Grace" played from a car stereo. A blue and white portrait of "JoePa" was propped on a stand next to vigil participants.

"Joe Paterno was more than just a football coach," sophomore Julia Qualiotto said. "He was, in our eyes, and the eyes of many, a legend. ... Joe was the face of Penn State, and he gave so much to help make this university that we attend, have attended, worked for, or support.

"Recently, his reputation was tarnished with a scandal. For those of us here tonight, and many other Penn State students, alumni, faculty, and staff and supporters didn't view Joe in a bad light. We still saw him as the legacy and legend that he was, and just because he passed, his legacy and legend will never die. Rest in peace JoePa."

Julia and other students also chanted "We are ... Penn State."

Paterno coached the Nittany Lions football team for 46 years before being fired on Nov. 9 by Penn State trustees after he was criticized for not going to the police in 2002 when told that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had been seen molesting a boy in the showers at the football complex.

Paterno reported the allegations to university higher-ups, but it would be nearly a decade before Sandusky was arrested. Paterno said he regretted having not done more.

Paterno was born Dec. 21, 1926, and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

During his senior year in high school, Paterno's Brooklyn Prep football team lost just one game " to St. Cecilia of Englewood, N.J., which was coached by Vince Lombardi.

Paterno arrived at Penn State after graduating from Brown University, where he played quarterback and defensive back.

The Nittany Lions finished in the top five of polls five times and in the top 10 a total of 22 times under his leadership. Paterno did not sustain a losing season until 23 years into his tenure, when Penn State finished 5-6 in 1988.

Penn State Greater Allegheny softball coach and admissions counselor Amanda Maksin said Paterno was an inspiration.

"I try to encourage education first, just as he did," Maksin said. "I feel like if I can touch half as many students that Joe Paterno did, I feel like I might be successful in life. I feel like he's really been an inspiration to a lot of us and how we model Penn State. Every campus, every student, every organization. I feel that's a very important thing to remember.

"He was a man that was trying to better Penn State, not just his football players, every student that came through."

Freshman Randy Langer said he only has been a part of Penn State for a short time, but feels like an alumni because of Paterno's spirit.

"Just by the way Joe Paterno's instilled the values in all of us," Langer said, "not to be about athletics, and to live a good life and make changes for the better, not just for ourselves, but for our community as a whole."

Paterno's family announced funeral arrangements Monday.

A public viewing is scheduled for today from 1-11 p.m. at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on Penn State's University Park campus. A second viewing is scheduled for Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon, with a private family funeral service later that day.

A public memorial service is slated for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Gov. Tom Corbett ordered the state's flags lowered to half staff in honor of Paterno.

Corbett announced Monday that flags at state facilities would be lowered to half staff through Paterno's funeral.

Tribune-Review News Service contributed to this story

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