Joe Paterno

Mourners continue to flock to Paterno statue

Despite the cold, wind and rain, a steady stream of people made their way to the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium to pay their respects Monday.

The visitors took photos of the statue, sometimes posing in front of the growing array of mementos and tributes left there by fans of the iconic coach, who died Sunday at age 85.

Saturday morning, the statue was wearing a blue and white scarf with a white hoodie draped over its shoulders.

Haley Way, 5, of State College, carefully placed a bouquet of blue and white flowers with the other items left there. Her parents, Wayne and Tammy brought her to the statue after telling her about Paterno all morning.

“We told her what a great character he was,” said Tammy Way. “That’s what I want her to grow up knowing.”

Wayne Way, who attended graduate school at Penn State, said he thinks Paterno primarily should be remembered for his loyalty to the university and for the example he set for young men. He called him “a great coach, a great man.”

Another visitor to the statue was Sam Markle, a 1957 Penn State graduate and Pleasant Gap resident who had served as an usher at Beaver Stadium for more than 50 years. 

“I liked what he stood for -- tremendous, great fellow,” Markle said.

He also spoke about the way Paterno’s career ended, being dismissed from his coaching job by the university board of trustees.

“To do that to him was unconscionable,” he said.

Debra Shelow, a Penn State librarian who lives in Bellefonte, was at the statue for the second day.

She flew into University Park Airport  last night from Los Angeles, where she’d been visiting relatives, and went straight to the statue, she said, arriving there at 11:30 p.m. She had to come, she said, “’cause my heart was breaking.”

When asked about Paterno, she pointed to Paterno’s words that are inscribed there: “They ask me what I’d like written about when I’m gone. I hope they write that I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

“What’s on that wall is what Joe is,” she said.

Elsewhere on campus, calls for a whiteout in Paterno's honor led to a greater-than-usual presence of white T-shirts, windbreakers and sweatshirts, although some was hidden under rain gear.

Mark Webster, an IT consultant at Paterno Library, said his wife told him about the proposed whiteout, and he dug into his closet for a white T-shirt that bore an image of Paterno, and the words "Thanks Joe."

"It happened to be a Christmas gift," he said. "I've always been a fan of Joe Paterno. It seemed appropriate."

 Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620.