Mourners left flowers at Joe Paterno's statue when he died in January. Months later, Penn State removed the monument.
Two larger-than-live Pennsylvanians died this year. Joe Paterno and Arlen Specter both dominated their professions for decades, but re-wrote their legacies in their final years. The two men’s deaths are one of witf’s top stories of 2012.
For all intents and purposes, Joe Paterno was Penn State. He led the school’s football program for nearly 50 years, compiling the most wins in NCAA Division 1 history.
But two months before Paterno died, his sterling legacy took a major hit. Longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting young boys, and Penn State administrators were accused of covering up the crime.
Paterno was fired, and never charged, but former FBI Director Louis Freeh blasted the coach in his special report to the school, saying the coach could have done more to stop Sandusky, or report his actions to authorities.
The NCAA stripped 111 wins from Paterno’s career after the Freeh report was released, stripping the coach of his record.
Arlen Specter was another giant of modern Pennsylvania history who died this year. Whether it was his unique vote on President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, or opposing President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, Specter always displayed a fierce independent streak in Washington.
Specter was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving Senator. But when he switched from Republican to Democrat to run for another term in 2009, Specter lost in the primary. The Kansas native left his mark on Supreme Court nominations, and also fought for federal health funding.
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