Crowds Gather on Heister Street to Remember, Honor Joe Paterno
One year to the day since former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away, hundreds of students, alumni and State College residents lit 409 candles in his memory.
Huddled next to the massive mural on Heister Street, mourners, fans and admirers convened downtown despite freezing temperatures that continued to drop. The Alma Mater was quietly sung as candles were lit – 409, for the number of wins the coach amassed before the NCAA sanctions were levied against the university.
Michael Pilato, the artist who painted the Heister Street mural that features Paterno seated and wearing his signature glasses, windbreaker and khaki pants, thanked the crowd for coming out and said the past year has been filled with dramatic changes.
"I'm so happy to see all of you here, to see all of these candles that were lit," he said.
Melinda Wright, one of the event organizers, said she didn't even have an affiliation with Penn State until last year, but now feels she has been 'adopted' into the Penn State community and wanted to hold the vigil so that anyone could take a moment to quietly thank the man they may have seen as a father figure, a coach and a humanitarian.