Others who spoke included Jonathan Jackson, one of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s sons, who first conveyed his father’s words of support and prayer to Ebert’s family, and then spoke from the heart, praising Roger for his unwavering support for black cinema: “I look at Roger as a soldier with a pen…He respected what we had to say about ourselves.”
Jackson also read a letter from Spike Lee who conveyed his condolences to Ebert’s family and thanked Roger for all the years of kind reviews and the unwavering support he gave Spike throughout his career as a filmmaker.
A tearful Sonia Evans, one of Chaz’s daughters and Roger’s step-daughter talked about Ebert as the loving and devoted family man she knew and loved: “He always saw such special things in people. He realized connecting with people is the main reason we’re here.”
At the end, despite the emotional outpouring of fond memories and tearful remembrances, the funeral itself was far from a sad and joyless occasion. It was instead a loving farewell to a special person who lived a rich and full life and whose undying passion for films, writing about films and for life itself transcended any grief and joy.
And when the funeral was over, the sun came out.
A Thursday memorial tribute for Ebert will be held at the Chicago Theater. It will be open to the public and will include films clips and musical performances with filmmakers and Hollywood celebrities expected to be present.