As family, friends, former players and myriad others prepare for the first public viewing of Joe Paterno Tuesday following his death Sunday, one of the former Penn State head coach’s son has given a glimpse into the final hours and minutes of the legend’s life.
Speaking to the Associated Press Monday, Scott Paterno painted a picture of an 85-year-old man “at peace” in his final days on earth, battling to the end surrounded by family and friends at the Mount Nittany Medical Center. Paterno had been hospitalized since Jan. 13 due to complications from chemotherapy used to battle the lung cancer that ultimately claimed his life.
“He wanted his family in his room. He wanted to be around people. He wanted to talk,” the son said. “He wanted to have people, even when he had trouble speaking, he wanted people around him talking. How are your kids? It was so natural. It was like we were having dinner around the kitchen table. It just happened to be his hospital bed. …
“Even at the end when it was clear that he passed a line of no return, it was never a moment of bitterness. It was never a moment of fear. He was serenely calm, even right up to the end.”
As head coach since the mid-60s, Paterno had been the face of both a football program and a university. Paterno relayed a story illustrating his father was a Penn Stater right up until his final breath had taken.
There were no balloons or flowers in Paterno’s room. His son suspects his mother sent them to other patients in the hospital.
But there was a Penn State sweat shirt in there.
“His life is Penn State through and through,” Scott Paterno said, speaking of his father in the present tense. “He understood that and it never once occurred to him to be bitter toward Penn State.”