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Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away around 10 a.m. Sunday morning, after battling complications from lung cancer. Paterno, affectionately known as "JoePa," became synonymous with Penn State University by devoting sixty-one years of his life to the school (forty-six as the school's head football coach), where, with 409 victories, he became the winningest coach in major-college football history. He won twenty-four bowl games, two national titles, was named National Coach of the Year five times, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Paterno was a sainted figure in Pennsylvania's Happy Valley, who transcended sports and became known for his high academic and moral standards. He was mentioned in the same breath as coaching legends like Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant, and was affectionately known for his unique sartorial habits on the sidelines; sporting thick glasses, rolled-up pants, white socks, black football cleats, and that ubiquitous windbreaker. With all that said, Paterno's legacy sadly became irredeemably tarnished after the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Due to what Brent Musburger called Paterno's "lapse in judgment" in failing to report Sandusky's heinous deeds, Paterno was fired by the board of trustees on November 9, along with university president Graham Spanier. For Paterno fans, it was as if Gandhi had been caught sneaking food during a hunger strike.
Paterno was born in Brooklyn in 1926, spent time in the army, and studied English literature at Brown where he played quarterback on the football team, before landing at Penn State. He married his wife Suzanne (a Penn State graduate like their five children) in 1962. According to a statement released by the family:
"It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community."