‘I feel like it’s something I had to do’

posted February 7, 2012 in

As the Old Main bells rang “Hail to the Lion” on a gray, cold, central Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, a special moment took place in one family.

A husband and wife and their two young daughters had just walked out the back of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center after paying their respects to the iconic former football coach of the Nittany Lions, Joe Paterno.

Tears rolled down their faces as they reached into their pockets to grab a tissue.   One daughter, decked out in a pink Penn State sweatshirt, turned to her parents and said, “Mommy and Daddy, don’t cry.  JoePa is in a better place now.”

On the second day of public viewing thousands of people gathered to bid farewell to Paterno. Although crowds were not as large as on Tuesday, the line stretched from the Spiritual Center to a little past the Palmer Museum of Art.

“I’ve never seen so many students up this early in my life,” said Penn State student Ryan Smith, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. “It truly shows what a special man he was to this university and community, seeing all these people here today.”

George Yatsky, who drove from the Harrisburg area along with a friend, said this turnout was well-deserved for such a special man.

“I do have work today, but I’m taking time out of my day to come up here because I feel like it’s something I had to do,” said Yatsky. “He is and also will be my hero.”

  Members of the Penn State men’s rugby team provided hot chocolate for those waiting in line. All they asked was for a small donation benefiting THON.

“We just thought it would be a good idea because we saw how cold it was yesterday,” said sophomore Jake Marshall. “People have been very generous with their donations.”

  A ray of sunshine broke through the clouds just as the viewing was coming to an end. One local television reporter said to his cameraman, “The sunshine must be Joe’s way of letting us all know everything will be all right.”

Actor William “Billy” Baldwin said he felt compelled to fly to State College from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., after hearing of Paterno’s death.

Baldwin said he attended Penn State games when he was younger.

“I’m glad I had the honor and privilege to meet him,” said Baldwin. “The tools and values he instilled on Penn State transcend football.”