Paterno supporters mark coach’s life on anniversary of his death

STATE COLLEGE – On the second anniversary of Joe Paterno’s death, fans and supporters came out to light candles, share memories and honor the legacy of the late Penn State football coach.

The candlelight vigil, hosted by the Inspiration Way Foundation, was held at the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center, just north of campus. About 50 people attended the vigil, while others drove by and honked to show support

It featured 409 blue and white luminaries on which people left messages to Paterno, all with a similar theme: “We are because you were.”

Ted Sebastianelli, a member of Inspiration Way and a former Penn State football player, said the tributes to Paterno will never stop.

“Joe was the best,” he said. “He was just wonderful.”

Sebastianelli said he played linebacker and center for Paterno in his first three years as head coach, 1966-1968, and he served as president of the Letterman’s Club for nine years. He is also running for a seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees.

The quote he chose for his luminary came from an award ceremony Paterno spoke at. He said: “I love my players. They gave me much more than I could have given them.”

Sebastianelli said, though, that statement couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“He gave us all so much,” he said.

Melinda Wright, another member of the foundation, said the group seeks to honor Paterno though “very positive, very inspirational events.”

She said vigils like the one on Wednesday night are cathartic for members of the Penn State community, many of whom are still reeling from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

“This is kind of a way for people to start healing and to show a positive memory,” Wright said.

Amy Picklo, a 1994 Penn State alum and member of the foundation, said it was an honor to host the vigil at the student center Joe and Sue Paterno helped to build.

She said she hopes that Inspiration Way’s efforts will inspire the university to follow suit.

“We just really hope the school follows our example and finally recognizes Joe Paterno,” Picklo said.

Paterno himself would have been embarrassed to see an event like this in his honor, Picklo said.

“He never wanted accolades or a statue or anything like that,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.