A bronze statue of Joe Paterno seated on a bench is planned for installation outside the Tavern Restaurant in November 2015. The statue, designed by sculptor Zenos Frudakis, is in response to Rodney Erickson’s decision to remove Joe Paterno’s statue from Porter Road in July 2012.
“There’s been some level of frustration among Penn Staters with what happened with the statue at the stadium,” Ted Sebastianelli, one of the organizers of the project, said. “We wanted to come up with a way to honor Joe for all that he did for the State College community. It wasn’t just the university he impacted — it was the whole town.”
Sebastianelli, a past president of the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club and Board of Trustees candidate, said the inspiration for the statue came from the iconic photo of Joe Paterno eating ice cream alone on a bench. There were plans to include a statue of Sue Paterno seated next to her husband or standing behind him but that is no longer the case, as she was not interested, Sebastianelli said.
Sebastianelli said the Paterno family is aware of the project but not involved at all. Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers did not respond to requests for comment.
As of right now, the project is called “Joe’s Bench” but Sebastianelli said it will be called “Reflections” when it is complete. As Paterno studied literature at Brown University, Sebastianelli said it was decided Paterno will hold one of his favorite classics, “Aeneid,” while seated on the bench.
One of the organizers of the project, Kim Intorre of State College, wanted to have the bench located somewhere downtown on Heister Street. Sebastianelli thought it would better serve its purpose in front of the Tavern, near the sculpture of the three pigs.
“As alumni groups come back every summer to celebrate reunions, they migrate to the Tavern,” Sebastianelli said “They can sit and reflect on the bench. It really will be a wonderful addition to the community.”
Once Sebastianelli received interest from Tavern owner Pat Daugherty, Intorre got the project approved by the State College Borough. There were some stipulations, including a requirement that the statue be on private property, Sebastianelli said.
Although the contract is not finalized, Sebastianelli said the estimate is the statue will cost about $300,000. To raise funds for this, the organizers will launch a Kickstarter campaign in July. The Porterfield group has pledged that a portion of its proceeds on the film “The People’s Joe” will go toward construction of the statue.
Penn State has said it will honor Paterno in some way in the future. Sebastianelli said the sentiment behind this project is: “We don’t need to wait for the university to make a decision. We can do this on our own.”
“There’s a culture of people in State College that clearly appreciates what Joe has done,” Sebastianelli said. “Our alumni always want to know how we will honor him. This is something we can do for State College while getting Penn Staters from around the country involved. This has nothing to do with university. We are doing this on our own.”