Marine Park’s Own Joe “JoePa” Paterno Remembered By Childhood Pals

A statue of Brooklyn's own Joe "JoePa" Paterno in front of Beaver Stadium, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Source: Wikipedia

College football fans all over the country mourned the passing of the Brooklyn-born Penn State titan, Joe “JoePa” Paterno, who succumbed to complications lung cancer this past week at 85.

Approximately 12,000 mourners attended a final tribute yesterday to the Penn State Nittany Lions’ beloved long-time leader, who was born in Flatbush, grew up in Marine Park, attended Good Shepherd Roman Catholic School and church (1950 Batchelder Street), and was credited with being the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.

Take that, Vince Lombardi.

Area residents, including 83-year-old perennial newspaper letter writer George Najarian, shared their thoughts with The Daily News on growing up with JoePa, whose other impressive achievement included being a graduate of Brown University, part of the Ivy League, in Providence, Rhode Island:

“I just feel terrible that he died,” said George Najarian, 83, who grew up near Paterno on E. 28th St. and played football with him on the lawns in the neighborhood.
“He was always a kind fellow.”

The revered coach-turned-philanthropist was fired this past November when it was revealed that his long-time assistant coach at Penn State, Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky, was charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse against young boys over a 15-year-period. According to some, upon the revelation of accusations leveled against Sandusky, Paterno did not do enough to get law enforcement involved.

In a related twist, just weeks before the Sandusky news dominated headlines, police arrested the stroke-addled Monsignor Thomas Brady, a much-loved cleric of 20 years at Good Shepherd, for allegations of “inappropriate sexual contact” with teenage boys.

Retiring in 2009 due to debilitating health, in addition to several strokes, Msgr. Brady is also undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, the same illness Paterno succumbed to.