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Jay Paterno Reads from New Book at Webster's

by on August 31, 2014 1:16 PM

Jay Paterno spoke with an even, measured voice as he read from his memoir to a small crowd at Webster’s Bookstore and Café.

Had he not told the crowd how difficult it was to write and read certain passages of his book, his collected demeanor might have hidden his emotions.

“The memories were the most difficult part of writing this book,” Paterno told StateCollege.com after the reading. “I remembered things that made me miss my dad, and then I had to think about how differently everything could and should’ve been handled.”

Paterno, who is also a columnist for StateCollege.com, told the gathered listeners that he wrote “Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of my Father” as part of a search for truth. While doing interviews to promote the memoir, he said he often encountered “cynics” who doubted the picture he painted of Joe Paterno: a loving father, a devoted coach, and an innocent in the scandal that would erupt near the end of his life.

On some occasions, he said some interviewers would insinuate that either he, his father, or even the entire town of State College somehow knew about the sexual assaults committed by Jerry Sandusky – an opinion he finds deeply troubling.

“At one point, I had sent my daughter to a birthday party at Sandusky’s house,” Paterno said. “And people still think I knew.”

Bob Swaim, an Allentown and State College resient and retired high school teacher, says he believes that Jay Paterno didn’t know about Sandusky’s crimes. He says at the high school where he used to teach, a physics teacher was arrested for sexually abusing students.

The teacher had been a respected colleague of Swaim’s. He even helped the man obtain a computer for his classroom – which he later learned was used as an incentive for the students he victimized. Having experienced the shock of learning about his crimes firsthand, Swaim says he knows that these tragedies can unfortunately hide for years – even from people close to the perpetrator.

“I think Jay is incredible,” Swaim says. “When he spoke at his father’s funeral, he was so honest, objective and calm. I know I couldn’t do that.”

Paterno said for all of the bad that came out of the Sandusky sex abuse case, it also drew national attention to the issue of child sexual assault. He hopes that this awareness can help prevent similar scandals in the future. If even one child is spared abuse, then Paterno says his father would feel that all that happened to him would be justified.

Though Joe Paterno may be gone, his son hopes the last months of his life don’t overshadow the rest of his life. He says that many of the students on the football team now were recruited by Joe Paterno, and thinks that they can still carry on his legacy at Penn State.

“Sam Ficken is a great example on why you shouldn’t give up on these kids,” Paterno said mere hours after Ficken’s game-winning kick in Ireland on Saturday. “I know these guys will continue to grow, and pass on all they learned [from my father].”

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Michael Martin Garrett is StateCollege.com's general assignment reporter, an alumni of Penn State and the bassist for local indie rock band Sun Whales. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelMGarrett.
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