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November 14, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Nearly every community has them--their untouchables--persons or places advanced as nobel exemplifiers of community pride above reproach and immune to even the slightest suggestion of impropriety. Such persons and places are routinely showered with approbation and laudation, sometimes deserved sometimes not, but as history is unmasked such persons or places frequently have something to hide, something swept under the rug, something purposely hidden.

When that happens a conspiracy of silence results in the mistaken belief that truth is to be feared and that a self invested purity would be forever lost when the opposite is true. But, woe to the wretch who, regardless of right, dares violate that conspiracy of silence. The nation, no, the world saw that play out last week at Penn State.

Pennsylvania is a state often described as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between. Centre County and its largest Borough, State College (pop: 38,5000) is situated almost half-way between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the Nittany Valley. This idyllic setting happens to be the home of Penn State University and the Nittany Lions. But, its more than that, it is the spiritual home of college football in Pennsylvania. It is not exaggeration to suggest State College is Pennsylvania’s version of the Vatican.

Penn State and State College was referred to as “Happy Valley” and there was no dispute who was the “King” of Happy Valley; Joe Paterno America’s most winning college football coach. The King of Happy Valley and Penn State Football literally brought millions of dollars to Pennsylvania and to Centre County. Over a forty-six year coaching career Joe Paterno and Penn State erased the reputation of “Hicksville” in that rural stretch of geography between two of America’s most prominent cities. Again, it is not exaggeration to suggest that Penn State and Joe Paterno was the knot that tied one side of Pennsylvania to the other.

But truth is, Happy Valley has been hiding a twisted, sick secret and covered up criminal acts because collective authorities believed the truth, child rape charges, would be more difficult to bear than the deed. But there is more to come, much more and the revelations will extend outside the university to the community at large.

In 1998 Penn State’s defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of molesting two boys in a shower but was never charged with a crime. Sandusky later admitted to touching a boy and asking for forgiveness. Six weeks later police closed the case and the County prosecutor never pursued the charges.

The Centre County prosecutor in that case was a man named Ray Gricar who by all accounts was a well respected lawyer and a dedicated prosecutor, but for whatever the reasons he didn’t prosecute Sandusky. It might have been that he didn’t feel he could obtain a conviction, no one knows because in April, 2005 Ray Gricar disappeared.

Gricar’s girlfriend said he told her he was going for a ride. Although his car was found in a parking lot in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and his laptop computer minus its hard drive was found in the Susquehanna River his body has never been found. In July 2011 Ray Gricar was declared dead.

The record is clear, a lot of people, including Joe Paterno, knew of the incidents of child rape or at least the allegations of impropriety, but the police were never called. Now a 23 page Grand Jury Indictment is hard to read but it makes it clear that no one wanted to make Happy Valley unhappy. There are investigations underway and people are certain to go to jail but in the coming days and months there will be more shocking revelations. And to paraphrase Churchill, never have so few done so much to hurt so many.

Regardless, there are lessons to be learned. Look at the untouchables in our communities, appreciate their good works, but always remember that it never hurts to look just below the publicity.


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