STATE COLLEGE (KDKA) – The final chance for the Penn State community to say goodbye to former Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno was held Thursday.
A public service, called “A Memorial for Joe,” took place at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State’s campus.
The building was packed as the tickets made available to the public online earlier this week were gone within minutes.
When Sue Paterno arrived, she received a standing ovation which went on for several minutes.
From then on, the life and times of Paterno was chronicled by a representative from each of the six decades he coached.
His demand for excellence in academics was also highlighted.
Former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge represented the decade of the 1980s
“Fear no one, but respect every opponent you play against and hope and expect him to bring out the very best in you as a competitor. Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. That’s what made him extraordinary. It wasn’t just compete hard and try to win, but do it the right way. Always try to do it the right way,” Blackledge said.
“Rest in peace coach, we’ll take it from here,” Charlie Pittman said representing the 1960s.
Nike Chairman Phil Knight talked about the last few months of Paterno’s life.
“it turns out he gave full disclosure to his superiors. Information that went up the chain to the head of the campus police and the president of the school. The matter was in the hands of a world class university and by a president with an outstanding national reputation. Whatever the details of the investigation are this much is clear to me. There is a villain in this tragedy that lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it,” Knight said.
Paterno’s son, Jay, concluded the memorial by sharing the final words he said to his father.
“I kissed him and whispered into his ear so only he could hear. ‘Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You’ve done enough. We all love you. You won. You can go home now,’” Jay Paterno said.
One woman made a three-hour drive from New Jersey to attend the event.
“It’s nice to give him this tribute in recognition of all the work he has done for the past 61 years at this school,” said Christina Kos, of New Jersey. “I actually had to call up to get them because Ticketmaster wasn’t working. I think it took me about 23 times before I got somebody. I was happy to get them, so happy to make the trip out here.”
His son, Jay Paterno, also spoke at the event.
Today’s public service follows several days of mourning on the campus.
Public viewings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday following Paterno’s death last weekend. Mourners lined up by the thousands outside of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for a chance to say goodbye to the legendary coach.
After the viewing ended on Wednesday, family and friends of Paterno grieved privately at a closed memorial service.
Then, by the thousands, people lined the streets as the funeral procession drove through the Penn State campus and State College.
After the ceremony, the hearse was followed by the Nittany Lions’ team bus, which took the family to the burial site.
Meanwhile, the pile of flowers and other mementos left at the Paterno statue has grown significantly over the past few days.
Stay with KDKA all day for full reports from Harold Hayes and David Highfield in State College.