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A Nittany Line of Mourners Pays Respects to Paterno

by on January 24, 2012 5:49 PM

The line of people who wanted to pay their last respects to the late Joe Paterno on Tuesday was a Nittany line.

It included a founder of Nittany Bank.

There was a woman who wore a brown and fluffy Nittany Lion cap, with ears and tassels.

An older man in a white beard sported a blue coat with the words “Nittany Lion” over his heart.

The line of hundreds and hundreds of admirers extended from the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, past the Forum Building and long beyond the Palmer Museum of Arts. Most folks know it as the red brick building with the giant Nittany Lions’ paws out front.

The line started forming, a State College police officer said, shortly after 11 a.m., even though the public viewing of Paterno’s closed casket wasn’t slated to begin until 2 p.m.

Earlier in the day, past and current Nittany Lion players and scores of Paterno’s colleagues and close friends had a private viewing and meeting with Paterno’s family, headed by his wife Sue.

By 3 p.m., a wait of three hours was about the norm for the late-arrivers as the line extended along the sidewalks of Curtin Road, past the old Creamery and to the corner where it met Shortlidge Road.

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In all, the long line of mourners extended nearly a quarter-mile, the length of four Nittany Lion football fields.

They came to honor Paterno, who died Sunday morning of lung cancer at the age of 85. He had been at Penn State for nearly 62 years – the last 46 as head football coach.

Once inside, the mourners wound their way through the spiritual center. Most probably didn’t know that Joe and Sue were a driving force behind the construction of the interfaith center. They donated $1 million to its development and worked diligently to help raise millions more.

When they finally their made way into the main chapel, visitors walked to the front where Paterno’s casket was by flanked by two Nittany Lion football players, a former player on one side and a current player to the left. A large photo of Paterno was supported by an easel to the left. Many mourners knelt in prayer.

The public viewing from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. was the first of two days of ceremonies. From 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, there will be a second public viewing, also at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. A private ceremony for Paterno’s family will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

At approximately 3 p.m. Wednesday, there will be a procession from the spiritual center winding past Pattee-Paterno Library to Beaver Stadium. From there, it will travel onto Porter Road and then right onto College Avenue, heading west through downtown State College. Burial will be private.

A public memorial service, “A Memorial For Joe,” is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday in the Bryce Jordan Center. It is a free, ticketed event; however, all tickets have been distributed. It will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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