Joe Paterno

Well-wishers gather to wish JoePa happy birthday

A chorus of Joe Paterno supporters sang outside his McKee Street home Wednesday night, as the ailing ex-coach celebrated his 85th birthday.

About 25 fans gathered in front of Paterno’s statue at 6:30 p.m., then made the 30-minute walk to his house and sang a few renditions of “Happy Birthday.” 

Paterno’s son, Jay Paterno, emerged from the house with Paterno’s wife, Sue, and several of her grandchildren. Jay Paterno thanked the crowd, but told them his father, who is being treated for lung cancer, could not greet them.

“Because of the chemo, he’s a little weak, so we don’t want to get him outside,” Jay Paterno said.

Voices in the crowd shouted their wishes for better health for the iconic ex-coach, and for a happy holiday season for the family.

“We’re with you guys,” one person told Paterno.

Jay Paterno said he couldn’t even count all the birthday cards his father had gotten, following a letter-writing campaign from alumni.

“There’s literally boxes,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”

Many of the fans expressed their outrage to media outlets covering the event at the way Paterno had been treated by the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

“It makes me so angry the board of trustees surrendered to media pressure to fire him after 62 years of service,” said Josh Kochel, who had driven from the Lancaster area. “For all he did for the university, he deserved better than that.”