Thousands show for first official Joe Paterno goodbye

Thousands waited up to three hours Tuesday to offer one final goodbye to former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. His closed casket was put on display in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus and mourners were allowed to walk by it and offer their condolences and say prayers for the Penn State legend, who died of lung cancer Sunday at the age of 85.

Several former players, including LaVar Arrington, Kerry Collins, Jack Ham, Blair Thomas, Stefen Wisniewski, Kyle Brady, Larry Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Daryll Clark and Franco Harris were in attendance while current players rode three blue team buses to the viewing.

Tuesday marked the first of three days people will get a chance to say goodbye to Paterno. The family will hold another viewing Wednesday and a public memorial service will be held Thursday in the Bryce Jordan Center, the school's basketball arena.

The university offered about 10,000 free tickets for Thursday's memorial service through the athletic department site and they were sold out in seven minutes. The demand was so high that some tickets even found their way to eBay, but were pulled down because eBay does not allow the sale of tickets to free events. The basketball arena holds 16,000.

In anticipation of demand to watch Thursday's memorial service — either in person or on the Big Ten Network, which is carrying it live — several professors have canceled their Thursday classes.

In a university announcement Tuesday, Provost Rob Pangborn asked faculty members to "use their discretion in holding or rescheduling classes, recognizing the needs of students who wish to pay their respects by attending this ticketed event in person or by viewing it as members of the Penn State community on"

The announcement goes on to state that students may miss class to attend a family emergency or a religious observance and that, "The memorial service is well within the intent of these provisions."

Saying goodbye to Penn State's late great coach unofficially began last Saturday when rumors that Paterno's condition had taken a turn for the worse began to surface. As the Paterno family issued a statement that JoePa was in "serious" condition, many flocked to the Joe Paterno statue on the Penn State campus and began creating a makeshift memorial. Candlelight vigils were also held.

In the days since, students have been making memorial videos, colleagues have been sending out statements and stories, and shops have been creating memorials on their windows. Artist Michael Bilato even painted a halo over Paterno's head on his Penn State mural.

"We lost a great man," former Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said. "Heaven just got a great football coach up there and he'll be remembered for a lot more than the wins on the football field from so many people."

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham

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