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On Joe Paterno, Loyalty, and Humanity

I’ve tried to write about Joe Paterno several times since I learned that he was dying on Saturday afternoon.

I’ve started and stopped four separate times. I wrote about being a tutor for student athletes and encounters on the sidewalk and football games, but each time, my feelings got the best of me.

My words became trite and empty, unable to do justice to the man who was the very heart and soul of my beloved Alma Mater.

Penn State was his heart and soul, too – not Penn State football, but Penn State University.

Through good years and bad, I have always been a faithful Joe Paterno fan. He was a model of integrity, character, and class. He embodied tradition and loyalty.

Joe Paterno was loyal to Penn State for sixty years; we were – and continue to be – loyal to him. It’s a loyalty that those outside the university and its alumni don’t comprehend.

The problem with meaning so much to each other is that people make mistakes.

People get fired.

People die.

We, the Penn State community, are left with big holes in our chests, an empty shell where our hearts used to be.

JoePa has moved on to grace God with his dry humor and Penn State pride.

We’ll all move on, too.

But Penn State will never be the same.

joe paterno
AP photo

© 2012 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “On Joe Paterno, Loyalty, and Humanity”

  1. Such a loss for Dear Old State. So tragic how the Paterno’s lives have changed these last few months. Can’t shake the feelings that they deserved more or that maybe things would be different now if Joe hadn’t been dealt this stress. I can only find solace in the fact that Joe’s now in the only place where judgement matters. Thanks for posting this, Tara!

    • I have prayed for this man & his family. But I don’t understand why anyone feels “they deserved more” or he was “dealt this stress”. God rest his soul, the circumstances were partially of his own making. The most “tragic” part is the suffering of young souls.

  2. That was absolutely beautiful. I wish I could make people on the outside understand the feeling of being a member of the PSU family. I’m so sadden by JoePa’s death and it feels better to be amungst others who are grieving too. Thank you so much for writing this!

  3. A man of integrity, obviously not in all areas of his life. Nonetheless I know many Penn State fans are so saddened by his death but unfortunately to me his legacy has been marred.

    • We’ll have to agree to disagree. He was a man of integrity in all areas, bar none.

      I understand why he didn’t go to the police. He went to his supervisor, which is exactly what Pennsylvania educators are trained to do. Being a public school teacher for 10 years, I can tell you that from experience.

      Even so, making one mistake doesn’t tarnish his integrity or his legacy. He didn’t hide anything. He didn’t lie. He didn’t try to cover anything up. Perhaps he could or should have done more; he said recently that he wished he had. Seeing a better choice in hindsight makes him even more respectable in my opinion.

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