Penn State fans heading to into town this weekend from Lewistown, Harrisburg and points east may notice something different flickering through their windshields as they approach the Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop on U.S. Route 322:
Images of the late Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno emblazoned on an electronic billboard, with phrases such as “success with honor” or “409 forever.”
The messages are the work of Kim Intorre, of State College, and Brian Hassinger, of Lewistown, passionate Paterno supporters who think the coach deserved better than to be fired over the phone and without due process. They see the digital billboard display as an homage to the late coach’s contributions and a mechanism the community can use to heal.
“The person he was and what he gave to the community are what we are trying to honor,” Intorre said.
The billboard lit up with the messages starting a minute after midnight Friday. It seemed to have attracted attention, as someone driving a pickup truck adorned with Penn State flags slowed down to a near stop to take in the messages Friday afternoon.
The displays will continue through midnight Monday, and they’ll restart next weekend during the same time frame. Last weekend was its kickoff.
Intorre and Hassinger raised donations to pay for the advertising space through Paterno supporters on Facebook. Intorre said her group has raised more than the $2,100 needed to flash the billboard during home football weekends and that they’ll also run the messages on the away-game and bye weekends. The donations have come from all over the country, as well as from a service member in Afghanistan.
Hassinger created the designs of the messages while Intorre handled the logistics to make their vision a reality.
This weekend’s allotment has three images contributed by photographer Pat Little.
One is a close-up shot Little took in 2002 of Paterno’s iconic black Nike shoes and rolled-up pant legs. That has the phrase “success with honor.”
Another message, “409 forever,” is laid over a shot of Paterno from behind that Little took in 2007. That’s a reference to the record-setting number of wins Paterno had before the NCAA took away 111 of them as part of the sanctions against the university.
The third, a side profile Little took in 1987, displays the words “educator,” “coach” and “humanitarian.”
Hassinger tweeted about last week’s digital billboard messages to Scott Paterno, one of the late coach’s sons. Scott Paterno replied with a tweet of his own: “very moving and much appreciated.”
Intorre said she got positive support for the campaign from another son, Jay Paterno.
So far, Intorre said, the reaction is almost all positive, and the group’s efforts are not meant to attract attention to them.
“It’s nothing about glory for anybody but a man who gave his life, his career to his job,” she said. “This is all about honor, dignity and integrity.”
Bill Ennis, a photographer from Towanda, will also contribute photos to the displays.