Sitting down at his house in Jessup, former Penn State football player Ray Alberigi fought back tears as he talked about the legendary Joe Paterno`s death.
“I look at Joe as my big brother and his passing away, it`s family. And it hurts, it really hurts,” said Alberigi.
The winningest coach in college football history died Sunday morning; Paterno had been battling lung cancer.
Alberigi, a former Lackawanna County Commissioner, played for the Nittany Lions in 1956 while Paterno was still an assistant coach.
He said the timing of Paterno’s passing makes it even harder to bear.
Penn State is still embroiled in scandal after child molestation charges were filed against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, which ultimately led to the firing of Paterno.
“All the problems that there are now,” said Alberigi. “It’s a big sin, should never have happened, he`s too great of a man.”
Alberigi isn`t the only one reacting to the passing of JoePa; WNEP`s facebook site exploded with comments, moments after Paterno`s death was posted.
At Saint Peter`s Cathedral in Scranton, some parishioners said a prayer for what Paterno endured over the past months.
“I just think everything that they put him through, I think the man died of a broken heart,” said Lisa Blevins of Waverly.
Jeff Scagliotti wore his Penn State sweater to church as a sign of support.
He said JoePa`s legacy will overpower the controversy.
“I think that he`s going to go down for everything he did for the last 50 years. None of the last few months is going to make a difference. Joe is Joe and he did what he did for the school and the kids and football always came after that,” said Scagliotti.
At Damon`s Restaurant near Clarks Summit, a JoePa grinder was on the menu.
“Happens to be an Italian grinder and we have that on feature today in honor of Joe Paterno,” said Damon’s owner Ed Bush.
And as a card-board cutout of Paterno looked down from above, patrons remembered the football great.
“He was a great person, he was a great leader, set a good example,” said Bruce Potter of Clarks Summit.
For Alberigi, he has hard evidence how important JoePa was to so many.
He has a book titled “Captains’ Letters To Joe”, a collection of letters from decades of Paterno`s football captains.
They represent all the young men who worked, played and learned under Paterno and now carry on his lessons .
“They`ll carry the banner, definitely, and I think Joe would want it that way,” said Alberigi. “He was the top man of us.”