Sue Paterno: a wife’s unwavering support

Published On July 23, 2012 | By Alice Cook

Sue Paterno buried her husband in January, saw his statue come down over the weekend and this morning was told that 111 of his college wins have been stripped from the record books because of his compliance in the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University.

At the start of the day her husband was the winningest coach in Division I football history with 409 wins. Now he is in 12th place with 208.

Joe and Sue Paterno were married for over 40 years. The couple have five children and 17 grandchildren. This wife, mother and grandmother has seen her husband’s legacy blown away like a ball of dust. Sue was there for every one of those 409 wins. She was the one taking care of the kids when Joe was at all those practices, meetings, and road trips. A football coach’s wife in many ways becomes part of the team. The difference is, the players move on after graduation – the wife is there for the long haul.

Joe Paterno became “Joe Pa” in Penn State circles. He was still beloved by the Penn State community when the Jerry Sandusky scandal went public in November, and he was always beloved by his wife. There was Sue standing in the doorway with her husband last November the day he was fired. The campus became a riot scene later that night while Mr. and Mrs. Paterno slept in their modest ranch-style home down the street.

There is a chapel near the campus named after Sue Paterno. Mrs. Paterno donated over $1 million toward the Susan Pohland Paterno Catholic Faith Center. With the building still under construction last November, Sue Paterno attended a religious service on campus after the student riot. The Reverend Matthew Lahey, a campus minister, offered to say a private Mass at the Paterno home, but Sue insisted on going to pray with others.

“I was shocked that she came, but she insisted,” Lahey said in an interview with the New York Daily News last November. “She felt hiding shouldn’t be part of her healing.”

That was back when her husband was still alive, his statue was still on campus, and the Penn State program was not fined $60 million. While the “family” (lawyers) issued a statement after today’s rulings, Sue has remained quiet.

Sue Paterno clearly loved her husband more than any Penn State fan ever could because she knew Joe better than anyone. Seven months ago she didn’t want “hiding to be part of her healing.” Now she may have no choice.

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About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.