By Gracie Lee , Christian Post Contributor
January 29, 2012|5:43 pm

A number of famous celebrities have passed away in January 2012, including iconic Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno died this month after a short battle with lung cancer at the age of 85. His legacy at Penn State as their most famous football coach of all time will undoubtedly stand, but his time there ended controversially after he resigned following Jerry Sandusky's alleged child abuse scandal went public.

Paterno (Photo: REUTERS / Scott Audette)

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno watches his team during the fourth quarter of the Capital One Bowl NCAA football game in Orlando, Florida, in this January 1, 2010 file photo. Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired over their handling of a sex abuse scandal, the Penn State board of trustees said on Noember 9, 2011. Earlier on Wednesday, Paterno had said he would retire at the end of the season. But a statement from the trustees said that Paterno's dismissal was effective immediately.

Famous American blues singer Etta James also passed away in January, sending her horde of fans into mourning. James died at the age of 73 due to complications after being diagnosed with leukemia.

R&B legend Etta James (Photo: Reuters)

R&B legend Etta James

One of the most heart-breaking deaths in January was that of young professional skier Sarah Burke. The popular Canadian skier, who was a multi-champion freestyle skier, died at the young age of just 29, and died of cardiac arrest after a horrific skiing accident while training.

Sarah Burke (

Sarah Burke, professional skier, is a four-time X Games champion.

Other notable stars who have passed away are actor James Farentino, who died aged 73, and actor Robert Hegyes, who died aged 60. Farentino died of heart failure, and Hegyes died of a heart attack.