STATE COLLEGE — In the frigid night air, candles flickered along Heister Street as dozens of Penn State fans gathered for a vigil one year after Joe Paterno’s death.
409 luminaries, one for each of Paterno’s wins as head football coach at Penn State University, were scrawled with messages from fans.
The vigil was held in front of a mural where Paterno is shown, among others.
“It’s the anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life. Joe meant a lot to me. He was here at Penn State when I was born and my parents always talked about what a good man he was,” said Penn State grad Bill Fairer tearfully.
The NCAA vacated 111 of Paterno’s wins after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Sandusky, Paterno’s assistant football coach, was found guilty of sexually abusing young boys.
Despite that, many of the fans along Heister Street said they believe Paterno did nothing wrong.
They said one year after his death, they wanted to show their love and allegiance.
“You know, we fill Beaver Stadium when it’s freezing cold. Why wouldn’t we do that for the man we love, the coach we love?” asked alumna and fan Devon Bordi.
“Joe Paterno has meant a lot to me for a lot of years. It’s why I went to college here. He’s done a lot of things for us,” said Karl Fazer.
“I started writing to him when I was in eighth grade. He started out as a pen pal for me really and I continued that for 30-some years, 35 years and I actually got to meet him. He always had a good word,” said Kim Gasper of Bellefonte.
Earlier in the day, fans visited Paterno’s grave at a cemetery near the university, leaving mementos.
Paterno spent more than 60 years at Penn State.
“I really want to see things done right by him. I want to see his good name restored. I want to see his statue back at the stadium. I’d like to see the stadium renamed,” said Fairer.