STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (ABC News) -- Joe Paterno Jr., whose glittering career as Penn State's football coach was tainted by a child sex-abuse scandal, died today. He was 85.
"It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled," Paterno's family said in a statement.
Paterno coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and in 2011 became the winningest coach in Division 1 football. But before the season was over, he was abruptly dismissed as the sex scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky suggested that top school officials had ignored signs of Sandusky's alleged predatory behavior.
Shortly after his dismissal, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments weakened him, robbing him of his hair and his once-booming voice.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he appeared frail, wearing a wig and speaking in a whisper. He canceled public appearances after the interview because of his failing health, according to family members.
For Paterno's legion of fans, who referred to the coach affectionately as "JoePa," the turbulent final months of Paterno's life were a tragic end to an outstanding coaching career that was built around his motto of "success with honor."
Saturday night, Paterno's wife, Suzanne Paterno, summoned close friends and longtime staff members Saturday afternoon to the State College hospital where Paterno has been undergoing treatments since last weekend, a source told the Citizen's Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Paterno wanted to see them and say a final goodbye, the coach's wife told one of the staff members, the source said.
Hundreds of students gathered around the bronze statue of Paterno on the Penn State campus Saturday night, praying for Paterno's recovery, lighting candles and placing blue and white baseball hats at the foot of the statue.
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Paterno's personal life included service in the Army, an English degree from Brown University, a marriage that lasted more than half a century, and a football team's worth of children and grandchildren.
"He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community," Paterno's family said in a statement.
While at Penn State's helm, Paterno, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., led the Nittany Lions to seven undefeated seasons and two NCAA championships, had only five losing seasons, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, and was nominated for a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The nomination was revoked, however, after the scandal broke.
State College, Pennsylvania (Indiana's NewsCenter)-Multiple media outlets are reporting former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's health has taken a turn for the worse.
There were reports late Saturday that Paterno had passed away but family members tweeted he is still fighting for his life.
According to espn.com, a spokesperson for the family says "Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications. His doctors have now characterized his status as serious. His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time."
We first learned Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after he was fired from Penn State. At the time doctors said it was a treatable form of cancer but those close to the family say treatments for the disease have caused further complications forcing his family to re-admit Paterno into the hospital recently.
Joe Paterno is Division I's winningest coach. He won two national championships and 409 games during his more than four decade long coaching tenure.
But Paterno's has been in the news most recently after allegations of a sexual abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
We will continue following the situation and bring you more as it develops.
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