STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (January 22, 2012)—Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85.
Paterno had been under observation in the hospital since Jan. 13, for what his family called minor complications from his cancer treatment.
Paterno died at 9:25 a.m. Sunday of "metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung," Mount Nittany Medical Center said in a statement.
Metastatic indicates an illness that has spread from one part of the body to an unrelated area.
The hospital said family members, who requested privacy, surrounded Paterno Sunday.
His family announced on Nov. 18 that the legendary coach had been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer.
Paterno was fired from Penn State Nov. 9 after a former assistant coach was charged with molesting 10 boys during a 15-year time span.
Considered the winningest major college football coach of all time, his career consisted of 409 wins in 46 seasons and two national championships.
Family Announced The Death Sunday
His family released a statement Sunday morning to the Associate Press to announce his death.
"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,” the family said.
“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,” the family said.
“He has been many things in his life — a soldier, scholar, mentor, coach, friend and father. To my mother he was and is her soul mate, and the last several weeks have shown the strength of their love. To his children and grandchildren he is a shining example of how to live a good, decent and honest life, a standard to which we aspire,” the family said.
“When he decided to forego a career in law and make coaching his vocation, his father Angelo had but one command: Make an impact.
“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact. That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country,” the family said.
“And so he leaves us with a peaceful mind, comforted by his "living legacy" of five kids, 17 grandchildren, and hundreds of young men whose lives he changed in more ways than can begin to be counted,” the family said.
Penn State Officials Pay Tribute To Paterno
The Penn State Board of Trustees and University President Rodney Erickson issued a statement as well, Sunday.
"We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary and his commitment to education is unmatched in college football. His life, work and generosity will be remembered always," it said.
Penn State's football coach Bill O'Brien said in a statement Sunday that the school and all college football have suffered a great loss.
The school hired O'Brien, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, this month to succeed Paterno.
O’Brien said says Penn State is one of the game's iconic programs because "it was led by an icon in the coaching profession."
He also offered condolences to Paterno's family on behalf of the team.
State College Residents Shocked
State College residents were expressing shock and sadness Sunday after the death of the longtime coach.
Tom Kleban, a research analyst who lives in State College, attended Mass Sunday at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church on Sunday and afterward spoke about what Paterno meant to the town.
He said Paterno "left an incredible legacy not only for the Penn State program but for the community as well."
A Penn State alumna, Jan McKenna, says she was in shock over Paterno's death.
She said she never thought, "This was going to happen this soon."
Pennsylvania Governor Saddened
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett expressed his condolences Sunday after learning of Paterno’s death.
Corbett said he and his wife were saddened by the news.
Corbett cited Paterno's record of having won more football games than any other major college coach and also his generosity to Penn State "as an institution and to his players."
He said Paterno, as both a man and a coach, met adversity "with grace and forbearance."
"His place in our state's history is secure,” he said.
Students, Residents Held A Vigil Saturday Night
About 200 students and townspeople gathered Saturday in State College at a statue of the former coach.
Some brought candles, while others held up their smartphones to take photos of the scene.
The mood was somber, with no chanting or shouting.
Paterno's son Jay tweeted, "Drove by students at the Joe statue. Just told my Dad about all the love & support—inspiring him."
The statue is just outside a gate at Beaver Stadium.
Death Reported Prematurely Saturday
A student-run news organization that covers
Penn State posted a letter online from its managing editor announcing his immediate resignation after the publication's Twitter account sent messages saying Paterno had died.
Paterno's sons disputed Onward State's Saturday posts, and the publication recanted, but not before the erroneous information was reported and amplified by many media organizations across the country and retweeted uncounted times.
The former editor, Devon Edwards, said in the letter that he takes responsibility and "never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State would be cited by the national media."
He did not explain how the error occurred.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State-THON, The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon."