Former Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno has died at age 85.
Paterno, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in November days after being fired in the fallout of a child sex scandal, died Sunday morning at the Mount Nittany Medical Center near the Penn State Campus in State College.
The Paterno family released a statement widely quoted on numerous national media outlets, including NBCPhiladelphia.com as follows:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Shortly before noon on Sunday Paterno's son Jay tweeted a message to well wishers: "Our family thanks Penn Staters, students & all people for prayers & support for my Dad. He felt your support in his fight."
Jay Paterno's brother and Joe Paterno's son Scott also tweeted a message for supporters shortly before noon on Sunday saying: "Finally, to Penn Staters, past and present, know that Dad loves you all and has always loved being part of your family."
By mid-afternoon on Sunday official condolences started coming in, including this statement from Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-PA6):
"Pennsylvania has lost a legendary football coach who graciously used the spotlight of success to help better his players, Penn State University and our Commonwealth. College football was a means for Joe Paterno to mold players into leaders and to forever transform a university to which he was fiercely devoted. The football field was Coach Paterno's classroom. The lessons he taught prepared his players to succeed not only in the next game but also for the remainder of their lives. With a heavy heart, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the Paterno family and offer hope that they may find comfort in these difficult days."
An innaccurate report of Paterno's death circulated widely Saturday night but was denied by Paterno's sons on Twitter Saturday night.