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Thursday, November 10, 2011

At Penn State, Joe Had to Go

It's a sad day in Happy Valley, the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, a University now rocked by one of the very worst kinds of scandal. 

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky stands credibly accused of raping and sexually molesting a series of young boys, some at least as young as 10 years old, and of doing so in some instances inside the football facilities while he was still a coach.

Sandusky stands to be judged on his own for these heinous, monstrous actions. But now comes the important issue of who else knew, may have known, or where made aware of what was going on, and did little or nothing to protect these children.

Last night that fallout spread to school president Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno, both of whom were fired by the university board. For Spanier it is the end of a 16-year run, and for the iconic 'Joe Pa' it marks the ignominious end to a 46-year head coaching career.

I could write all day long on the circumstances that led to this point, and the guilt, culpability, and responsibility that Sanduskay, Spanier, and others hold in this situation. But I'll leave that to the countless articles arleady out there, already well written.

Here, I want to cover a couple of simple points about Paterno, points that highlight the reasons that for days my own mantra was "Joe must go!" Now that he is rightly gone, the issue of his responsibility needs to be addressed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meeting Jessica

Jessica Liversidge was just 18 years old when she laid down to sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning, October 23rd. She never woke up. She was my niece through marriage, the only child of my wife Debbie's sister, Vickie, and Vickie's husband Joe.

I had only seen Jess in person twice since she was a very little girl, both times in her pre-teen years. Once their family visited our home in the Somerton section of Philadelphia. Another was at the funeral for her maternal blood grandmother, Alma Marshall, Debbie and Vickie's mother by birth.

I say "by birth" because the whole family relationship story is kind of unique, reminiscent of an "Oprah" episode where family members who were long estranged or never knew about one another are suddenly united or reunited.
Alma had 4-5 children already when she discovered that she was pregnant with Vickie.

This was the early 1950's, still the post-World War II years, and times were tough in the household. Knowing she was carrying a life inside of her, but believing they could not afford another child, she and her husband Bob decided to give Vickie up for adoption.

Incredibly, it turned out that Alma still wasn't done with mothering. About two years later, my wife Debbie came along, and the couple decided that it must be God's will to keep expanding their family. They kept Debbie, and even ended up adding two more children to their family after that.

Vickie was adopted by what all accounts seem to indicate was a wonderful couple who raised her in the area in and around Downingtown, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles to the west of the Marshall home on Huntingdon Street in Philly.