UNIVERSITY PARK - By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the line to enter Penn State University's Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for the viewing of former football coach Joe Paterno stretched nearly a city block along Curtin Road.
That line quickly continued to grow as State College awoke from its slumber, and that's when officials decided to open the doors, nearly a half-hour before the scheduled 8 a.m. start time.
Temperatures hovered around freezing throughout the morning, but that didn't seem to bother anyone. The literally thousands of people who gathered were willing to brave the cold to pay respects to the man they loved, the man they affectionately called "Joe."
Sentinel photo by CHRIS McFARLAND
The hearse carrying the body of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passes by Beaver Stadium Wednesday in University Park. For more photos of Wednesday’s events, see page A8 of today’s edition and online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
Sentinel photo by CHRIS McFARLAND
A message reading ‘Thanks JoePa’ appears on the sign outside of Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday in University Park. A public memorial service will be held there today.
From babies in strollers, kids barely old enough to know whose viewing they were attending, students, adults and the elderly, they all came to say goodbye.
Some dressed in their Sunday best, while others donned Penn State jerseys and caps. Some brought bouquets of flowers, and one student even had the letters "JP" cut into the back of his hair.
The wait to spend just a few moments standing in front of Paterno's closed casket - a humble, dark-wood coffin draped with white roses and a blue ribbon - varied between 90 minutes and two hours.
The mood outside the spiritual center was light; some students talked about skipping classes to attend today's "Memorial for Joe" at Bryce Jordan Center, while others shared memories of football games past. But as the crowd progressed into the warmth of the building, the mood grew more somber and the chatter subsided.
Just before entering the sanctuary, the line passed a glass plaque on the wall. It lists the Paterno family as one of two lead benefactors for the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.
Joe's sons, Jay and Scott Paterno, shook hands and hugged each and every person as they exited, thanking them and listening intently to those who wished to share memories of their father. The two brothers had spent nearly 10 hours greeting an estimated 27,000 people at Tuesday's viewing - Jay Paterno's hand was red and swollen from all the handshakes.
Three sophomore members of the Penn State rugby team - Blaze Feury and Jake Marshall, both of Denville, N.J., and Dan Callaghan, of Wilmington, Del. - arrived near the entrance of the Spiritual Center around 9 a.m. carrying two coolers of hot chocolate, which they began to pass out to those waiting in line.
"It was Danny's idea," Feury said. "We were leaving class (Tuesday) and we saw everyone waiting in the cold and we thought it would be a good way to help."
Callaghan said he called some local businesses Tuesday afternoon, who in turn donated the hot chocolate and cups.
The young men also accepted donations for THON, the student-run IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, and the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania - the two charities the Paterno family requested donations be made to in lieu of flowers. In two hours of serving warm drinks to those waiting in line late Tuesday night, the students said they raised $80. In less than an hour Wednesday morning, they more than doubled that amount.
To the rear of the spiritual center sat three Cadillacs - a pair of navy blue cars and a metallic blue hearse - waiting to take Paterno on one last trip past Beaver Stadium and through State College.
Across the street, inside the library that bears the former coach's name, game highlights of Paterno's career were being shown in the Foster Auditorium. Those game tapes will be shown again throughout the day today.
In the library lobby stood two life-size cardboard cutouts of Paterno and a pair of bulletin boards. On them, students and other guests of all ages placed sticky notes with personalized messages to Paterno.
Keeping watch over the operation was Sue Moyer, a reference assistant at the library. During the 1970s, Moyer was a music teacher at what was then Park Forest Junior High School, where she said she taught four of Paterno's five children - Diana, Jay, Mary Kay and Scott.
"I remember looking out into the crowd at choir concerts and seeing Joe sitting in the audience," Moyer said.
"I could've told you back when he was in eighth grade that Scott was going to be a lawyer," she added, laughing. "I never got to know Joe personally, but everybody really kind of knew Joe."
With her was a large envelope containing hundreds of sticky notes to Paterno that had been collected throughout the day Tuesday.
"They're going to give these to the University Archives," Moyer said. "They're going to give them to the family to read and then put them in the archives."
A female student quietly stood alone, gazing at the messages posted on Joe's likeness, before pulling out a pen and adding one of her own.
It read, "When they say 'We are,' this is what they meant. Thank you Joe for everything that you have done."