I worked in the Atheltic Department Ticket Office at PSU from 1970-1973. The ticket office was in Rec Hall, down the corridor and across the hall from the Football Coaches Office. I became fast friends with Joe Paterno’s secretary. These were the days before secretaries were given the more elevated and well deserved title “administrative assistant”. Tom and I left State College in 1974, but return to visit family and friends. Occassionally I dropped in at Rec Hall to say hello to my friend who was still there, still administratively assisting Joe Paterno. One time I had David along. He was just a little guy, maybe 2. As she and I chatted Davy wondered around quietly looking at pictures of famous Penn State football players. When I realized that David was out of sight I called to him. From Joe’s office came a pleasant reply, “If he’s blond and wearing overalls he’s in here.”
Mortified that I had carelessly let my toddler intrude on Mr. Paterno’s work space I dashed into his office to collect my kid… apologizing profusely. The great Joe Paterno waived off my apology. He pointed little David to a basket of mini-footballs and invited him to take one. My friend, his secretary, introduced me and told him I had worked in the ticket office (like 15 years ago!).
And Joe Paterno, The Joe Paterno, very convincingly… feigned remembrance.
What a guy, huh?
In 1993 shortly after we moved back home to State College, Matthew was hit by a car in the high school parking lot. He (and we) spent almost two weeks at Hershey Medical Center as he began his recovery from a near fatal brain injury. When he returned home, this photo was delivered to him at our home. It says, “To Matt, We are thinking about you. Your Friend, Joe Paterno.”
Matthew has considered this good man and great legend his friend ever since….
Ellen’s husband, Jim, worked at Penn State. Joe Paterno was truly a family man. Penn State was family.
May God bless the family of Joe Paterno and comfort them in their season of grief. Amen.