"He was not afraid to be the fully alive human being that God called him to be," said Bishop Joseph McFadden, during the 90-minute ceremony at the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick in downtown Harrisburg.
Paterno's son Scott recalled how his father valued a round, wooden dining room table, describing it as a metaphor for his inclusive approach to life.
"That table was to my father what the Academy was to Plato," Scott Paterno said.
Joe Paterno died at age 85 last month after a brief battle with lung cancer. The final months of his life were marked by a child sex-abuse scandal for which his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky, awaits trial on 52 criminal counts. Sandusky denies the allegations.
Scott Paterno said his father showed courage and confidence as death approached, and he exhibited no fear or anxiety.
"I watched my father live every day he had left without malice in his heart or bitterness on his lips," he told the hundreds of people inside the cavernous Roman Catholic church. "He was determined at every turn, in every moment, to ensure that he made an impact."
Among the attendees was Gov. Tom Corbett, who did not speak at the memorial but told reporters afterward he wanted to be there because he missed the Jan. 25 funeral and memorial services in State College, where thousands of mourners packed the basketball arena following the former coach's burial.
"This is my way of honoring Joe," Corbett said. "I'm very glad I was able to be here."
Joe Paterno spent 46 seasons leading the Penn State program, and remains the winningest coach in major college football.
He was fired by the Board of Trustees in November, shortly after he declared he would retire at the end of the season. He said he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.