Coping With The Loss Of A Legend
“The minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner.” – Joe Paterno
I’ve never lost someone close to me, and for that I truly count my blessings. Joe Paterno never knew my name or face, but he felt like family to me. I imagine he did to you, too. JoePa was a friendly, hilarious grandfatherly figure for those of us who got to know him over these last few years, just like he represented a sharp, dynamic fatherly figure to generations past.
It saddens me to think that, in just a few years, no student at Penn State will be able to join in that shared experience. Soon, students will only know Paterno by the library that bears his name and statue that bears his likeness. They’ll never have the unforgettable memories of hearing his energetic speeches at pep rallies or passing him on the way to class as he took one of his famed walks through campus, as Penn Staters have for the past 60 years.
We all knew this day would come for Joe, as it one day will for all of us, and we knew that day seemed near as Coach Paterno’s cancer and subsequent treatments appeared in the news. Yet none of us truly know how to react to the loss of a man whose impact we cannot measure, a man that we knew so well and yet, at the same time, barely knew at all. I spent an entire semester learning about Coach Paterno in “JoePa Class” (Comm 497G), and there still remains so much of him that we will never know.
I only met Coach Paterno once, as a high school sophomore who stuck his hand out to have it shaken by the legend as he walked past me in a crowded high school hallway. Never did I think that, someday, I would write of the impact he left on the university I love after his time with us had passed.
I receive Coach Paterno’s passing with a heavy heart and an appreciation for what JoePa has meant for all of us. He taught us to “take care of the little things,” that “besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks,”, and that we should always “believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.”
We love you, JoePa. And we always will.