The passing of Joe Paterno has stirred up a lot of emotions for many people.
Paterno, affectionately called JoePa by millions of fans, died Sunday from complications from lung cancer.
Penn State's football program. Through his leadership, his name became synonymous with the school's name and pride in Happy Valley. He helped young people become productive, successful adults by mentoring them and teaching the value of a good education over extracurricular activities.
His name became larger than life to many and he was a true hero. But heroes, like all people, are not perfect. Each of us has made mistakes or used poor judgment at some time in our lives. For JoePa, it wasn't doing more in the early investigation of child abuse allegations against his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
One doesn't have to look far to see other role models who tarnished their reputations with a bad decision.
For baseball great Pete Rose, it was gambling against the game he loved. For President Bill Clinton, it was succumbing to the attraction of a young intern. NFL quarterback Michael Vick served jail time for allowing dog fighting on his property.
These men were respected heroes whose accomplishments were tarnished by their desires and outside interests.
It's believed the only perfect person to walk this earth died 2,011 years ago. Yes, the allegations against Sandusky are horrific. But that lapse in judgment by Paterno shouldn't override all the positive influences and successes he brought to many generations of Penn State students.
His legacy of helping students achieve academic and athletic success is unmatched by any other coach in major college history.
With the immediate access the public now has to national figures, it's easy to put a person on a pedestal and think they are larger than life. But in reality we are all human and are subject to temptation and mistakes.
We need to keep that in mind with our more common heroes in our lives. We all have someone we look up to as a role model. We have to be careful not to let our feelings make the person to be something bigger than reality.
We are all going to make mistakes. Some will be more serious than others. It's important to keep everything a role model does in perspective.
It's unfortunate that Joe Paterno's last months were clouded in controversy. He didn't have a chance to help the university make amends to the alleged abuse victims and restore the pride that culminated from his four decades of helping adults mature into today's business leaders and community role models.
We have to keep in mind the overall contributions of those we admire. Mistakes are going to be made by everyone. The goal is to do the best we can and correct our mistakes when possible.
Paterno's contributions to individuals and the school are more than admirable. He truly cared for the best interests of those around him.
(Brian Whipkey is the Daily American's editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)