The day after he was removed as Penn State's head football coach, Joe Paterno danced into his kitchen as he listened to the tunes of his fraternity from more than 60 years ago.
" 'Deke' songs never change," Paterno said, as he put his arms around a couple of current members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, Executive Vice President Kevin MacDonald recalled.
As a member of the Phi Rho chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, MacDonald and his brothers shared a unique bond with Paterno, who was a member of the Upsilon chapter at his alma matter, Brown University. Though many individuals felt like they were "part of the family" when it came to their relationship with Paterno, the members of DKE shine a new light on feeling a familial relationship with a man they still barely knew.
On Nov. 10, eight DKE brothers arrived on the steps of the Paterno household to deliver a letter of support after he had been terminated by the university, fraternity member Nick Taro said.
"We will continue to swell the fame of dear old State, and hope to continue your mission of improving The Pennsylvania State University in your honor. Thank you for all you have done for this University, this Fraternity, and the Penn State community," the letter read.
Media and the police were stationed outside the Paterno household as they approached the house.
"We just knocked on the door and causally walked in past the media and the police," Taro (senior-industrial engineering) said. "I couldn't believe it."
Immediately after Sue Paterno opened the door, she recognized the letters on their sweatshirts and invited them inside, he said.
DKE had not been in contact with Paterno since March when they invited him to attend a 20th anniversary celebration for their chapter, MacDonald (sophomore-history and political science) said. Though none of the current members had been in extensive contact with Paterno before, their mutual membership in DKE established an immediate connection.
"We were able to just show up at his door wearing our letters and were immediately invited in and welcomed," he said.
Still in disbelief as they walked through the house, Sue asked if they knew any "clean" fraternity songs, Taro said. Though they all seemed quite taken aback by this initial request, the eight brothers began singing one of their traditional songs.
"Twenty seconds later, Joe strolled in and started dancing," Taro said. "He started doing this little jig."
In high spirits and flashing a never-ending smile, Paterno began sharing some of his own fraternity memories, Alex Buckley said.
Though Paterno did mention that his family was going through some rough times at the moment, he remained upbeat and positive, Buckley (sophomore-actuarial science) said.
All the brothers who met Paterno agreed that he seemed like the man they had always imagined and certainly not someone who had been fired from his life-long profession just the day before.
"He didn't say a bad word about anybody," DKE President David Masters said. "If you didn't know what had happened, you wouldn't think there was anything going on."
With a seemingly clear conscience, Paterno remained in astonishingly high spirits at the time, Masters (junior-finance) said.
"We came to show our support in this troubled time and our conversation was more lighthearted than we could have ever imagined," MacDonald said.
With the entire Paterno family in the house, they joked and laughed for most of visit, Taro said. Paterno even mentioned that he might stop by their fraternity house, now that he had more time on his hands.
Diving into a discussion of Deke history, Paterno told his young brothers of his relationship with fellow fraternity brothers, including George H. W. Bush and George Steinbrenner, MacDonald said.
"He even said the had just talked to 'Old-man Bush' on the phone," MacDonald said. "He was the typical fatherly figure JoePa who everyone knew and loved."
Paterno wanted to teach the brothers some of the fraternity songs the knew from his days at Brown, but he said he could not use the foul language in front of Sue, Adam Brous said.
"He was just a great figure for us," Brous (senior-health policy and administration) said.
Paterno even took the opportunity to make sure his fraternity brothers were focusing on their studies, Masters said.
"You boys keeping your noses in the books?" Masters remembered him asking.
"We were obviously so honored to meet him, but it was Sue that was thanking us more," Masters said. "My husband really needed this," he remembered her saying.
Following the Delta Kappa Epsilon mantra of being "a gentleman, a scholar, and a jolly good fellow," the current brothers could not imagine anyone that better exemplified their fraternity.
"As Dekes, we conduct ourselves as men of honor," Buckley said. "I looked up to him all my life."
As a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Brown University, Joe Paterno was among the ranks of members such as Theodore Roosevelt and Gerald Ford, among others.
"He stands out in a huge list of five presidents, congressmen, franchise presidents and outstanding businessmen," MacDonald said.
One example of his character that members of Delta Kappa Epsilon cherish comes from a story Jay Paterno told at the Thursday memorial service. Jay explained that his father, while attending Brown University, found a way to let a Jewish student into his fraternity by taking the blame for preventing him from joining in the first place.
As a current Jewish brother of DKE, Brous said he feels a connection with this story and believes these kinds of acts defined who Joe Paterno was, and what their fraternity is about.
Since Paterno's death, all members attended the candlelight vigil and watched the memorial, MacDonald said. Following the vigil, they proceeded to walk to the statue outside of Beaver Stadium, where two brothers took the hooded lettered sweatshirts off their backs to place on the shrine.
The brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon plan on extending their sympathy and support to the Paterno family in the coming weeks.
"Sue was incredibly graceful and amazing with us, so we want to let her know that we would like to help in any way that we can," Buckley said.