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From a Flatbush street turned playground to a vast, uninterrupted valley framed by the Allegheny Mountains of rural Pennsylvania, the life of Joseph Vincent Paterno seemed perfectly formed by the physical landscapes that surrounded him. Rough and tumble, strong and absolute.
The complexities of New York in the 1920’s and 1930’s meant having few expectations, other than those instilled by a mother and father that prized – above all else -- family, work and God.
For Paterno, life was like a series of never-ending staircases. One moment up, another down. Two steps at a time, he ascended and descended. Leading both everywhere and nowhere.
The Greeks called it the Moirai [pronounced “Moy-rye”], or in English, the fates – three white-robbed female incarnations of destiny – ascribing metaphorical powers from the external world to each new soul, instilling an inevitable path that even the gods could not alter.
The son of Florence, a homemaker who drove her children to succeed, and Angelo, a quiet law clerk, Joe started life surrounded by lessons of the Great Depression; specifically, if you wanted something, you’d have to work for it.
His mother made sure all of her children understood that, and relied on that pearl of wisdom as each day broke and she’d send them on their way to the private schools she and Angelo could hardly afford.
And so, the son of Italian immigrants strode though every mysterious door with a curious calm. Trusting, perhaps in the fates, that in every fall there would be a lesson. In every lesson, a bond or friendship formed. And then another door. Another path. Another story.
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