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Ebert Memorial: Saying Good-Bye to Roger

Thompson on Hollywood By Sergio Mims | Thompson on Hollywood April 8, 2013 at 8:57PM

It was an appropriately gray, overcast and rainy Monday morning for the funeral of beloved film critic Roger Ebert held at the Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago. Hundreds of people were lined up outside the church just for a chance to pay their respects and say a final goodbye to someone who they considered to be one of their own, or as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called Ebert, a “true populist.”
Ebert funeral

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.

This article is related to: Roger Ebert (1942-2013), Roger Ebert Fellowship

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.