Joe Paterno, who died Jan. 22 following a short battle with lung cancer, is best remembered as Penn State's Hall of Fame football coach. But he also teamed with his wife to help raise awareness (and millions of dollars) for many charitable endeavors.
One of their benefactors has been Centre Volunteers in Medicine, which provides free health and dental care for uninsured adults and children in central Pennsylvania.
Sue Paterno attended a CVIM media function at Penn State's Multisport Facility Thursday afternoon and talked to reporters for the first time since her husband died. She became emotional upon learning CVIM is dedicating a key annual fundraising event to Joe Paterno.
“To be honest, they didn't tell me that,” she said. “But it means a lot to me because he really is still here. It's not real yet. And we're doing what he would want us to do. You have to know how proud he was of everything people in this town did -- on a volunteer basis -- to help others.
“We're a blessed community,” she added. Then she paused, took a deep breath and closed her eyes to fight back tears. She looked straight up before another speaker realized she was struggling and began talking.
The press conference was held to promote CVIM's “Marathoners for Medicine.” Runners from the area participate in marathons around the country, and ask people to contribute to CVIM on behalf of their efforts.
Joe and Sue Paterno were honorary coaches for the event for the past several years. Sue Paterno remains an honorary coach, and is now joined by Russ Rose, the head coach of PSU's powerhouse women's volleyball program.
“We have believed in it and we still believe in it,” Sue Paterno said of CVIM. “What more can we ask of the doctors and nurses -- the dentists -- everyone who donates their time to help people who need it?”
This particular charity is important to Sue Paterno because it benefits people close to home.
“I think we have an amazing community,” she said. “People do reach out, do help. And actually, we were recipients of that the last couple of months.”
Greg Fredericks, a former Penn State track star and Olympian, said Sue Paterno's presence at Thursday's media event served as an inspiration for the runners, many of whom were doing laps on the indoor track in the building.
“I think it's important for them to see Sue here,” Fredericks said, pointing to a group of passing runners. “Sue's really been involved from the get-go. She's been one of the motivators behind encouraging people to take a look at not just CVIM, but all of the things that she just said go on in our area. So I think it's really important that they see that she's here and still fighting for them.”
Sue Paterno is still fighting. But, on a lighter note, the 71-year-old says she's not about to do any running. She'll leave that to the marathoners.
“I've been so amazed that anyone can run that far,” she said. “… They have inspired me before and will continue to. I wish I could be one of them. But that's not in the cards. … When (the) running (craze) started, I was glad I was pregnant so I didn't have to run.”
Check out the CVIM Web site.