A candlelight vigil to mark the one-year passing of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is being organized by a group hoping to build a memorial brick walkway in downtown State College.
The vigil is planned for 7 p.m. on Jan. 22 in front of the Inspiration Mural on Hiester Street — a downtown landmark.
The mural was painted by artist Michael Pilato, who is involved with Inspiration Way and the vigil.
The organization, Inspiration Way, calls itself a “tribute group.” Organizers said they are hoping to light 409 candles — one for each of Paterno’s victories before 111 of the record wins were stripped as part of NCAA sanctions in July. Along with the vacated wins, Penn State suffered a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships. Gov. Tom Corbett on Jan. 3 filed a federal lawsuit that calls for the sanctions to be thrown out.
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On its Facebook page, the group is encouraging supporters to leave memories of how Paterno affected their lives that will be mentioned when each candle is lit.
The event also brings awareness to the memorial walkway.
“Initially, there were ideas to have the brick project going up toward Beaver Stadium, then near the grave site, but there were questions of whether that was kosher. Nobody knew,” Pilato said. “So Melinda (Wright) came up with the idea to do it at the mural (on Hiester Street). She asked me what I thought, and I thought it would be great.
“She’s been amazing with the whole thing,” he added.
Wright could not be reached for comment.
The Public Art Academy, the nonprofit founded by Pilato, is offering people the opportunity to purchase bricks that will compose the sidewalk. Each brick will have a message inscribed in it.
Pilato said the group will break ground on the brick project this spring. So far, he said, “hundreds of people” have contributed.
“There are lots of bricks, and lots of ‘409s’, lots of quotes. It’s been very impressive,” Pilato said.
To keep in the spirit of healing and avoiding any sensationalism, Pilato said the messages will all be positive.
“It’s all positive, nothing negative, nothing against the (Penn State) board of trustees,” he said. People have tried, but we’ve not allowed it. We’re not allowing any negativity.
“This is all about moving forward.”