Mourning Joe Paterno, From Afar
I’ve been absent from the blog—and the magazine—for the better part of the last two weeks. I have an unusual excuse: I’ve been in Cuba.
It was, admittedly, an awkward time to go off on vacation, with Joe Paterno having just passed away and the magazine staff working in fifth gear to put together a tribute to him for our next issue.
But I had already postponed the trip once: I booked the trip months ago and was originally scheduled to go in early December, but the Sandusky scandal—and our need to scrap our Jan-Feb issue in favor of an issue devoted to the scandal—scuttled those plans and caused me to rebook for the end of January. Rescheduling the trip yet again wasn’t an option, for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the complicated nature of traveling to Cuba.
(Incidentally, I went there under a U.S.-approved “people-to-people cultural exchange,” which is making it possible for more and more U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba legally. Here’s a Washington Post story from last Friday about such exchanges.)
So I ended up watching from a distance, with only spotty Internet access, as the Penn State family mourned Paterno’s death. I wasn’t able to watch the memorial service at all—though I’m told that Comcast On Demand has it available until this Sunday, Feb. 12. It was an odd feeling, to be so insulated from the grief that engulfed my friends and coworkers back home.
Even so, throughout my week in Havana, I was never very far from Penn State. One of the other passengers on the trip turned out to be a Penn Stater: Joel Katz ’67g. Several others had kids or siblings who had gone here. Lots of trip members wanted to know my take—and/or tell me their take—on the events of the past three months.
And at Ernest Hemingway’s former home on the outskirts of Havana, Finca Vigía, our tour guide had met Sandy Spanier ’76g, ’81g several times and knew all about her Hemingway research. Finca Vigía is also where you can find Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, the subject of a 2011 book by Paul Hendrickson ’68g.
Meanwhile, back at University Park, the magazine staff was doing an amazing job of pulling together the next issue. We had decided that March-April will be devoted to coverage of Joe Paterno’s life and legacy, and while I was gone they produced practically all of the copy for that issue. I just finished reading several of the major pieces that will be included, including several lovely essays written exclusively for us. The ones by Michael Bérubé, Paterno Family Professor in Literature, and by Jay Paterno ’91 in particular brought me to tears.
March-April will also have a timeline of Joe’s life and career that former associate editor Patrick Kirchner researched and wrote for us several years ago, something we’ve had in the hopper for a while now. There are details in there, especially about Joe’s early life, that are just plain fun.
We’ll continue work on the March-April issue for the next several weeks, and I’m happy to be back in the thick of that work.
Tina Hay, editor
Entry filed under: Joe Paterno, The Penn Stater magazine. Tags: Cuba, Finca Vigía, Havana, Jay Paterno, Joel Katz, legal travel to Cuba, Michael Bérubé, Paul Hendrickson, people-to-people cultural exchanges, Pilar, Sandra Spanier.