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Roger Ebert Remembered By Family, Friends at Funeral

The funeral for the Urbana-born film critic was held at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.


Mourners leave Holy Name Cathedral after film critic Roger Ebert's funeral in Chicago, April 8, 2013. The Pulitzer Prize winning movie reviewer died Thursday, April 4 at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. (Paul Beaty/AP)

Film critic and Urbana native Roger Ebert was praised at his funeral as a hero to his profession, a champion for the little guy and a visionary.

Ebert was remembered Monday morning at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago. He died Thursday at age 70 after a long battle with cancer.

Ebert's widow, Chaz Ebert, received a standing ovation when she spoke. She told the crowd she didn't know if she could speak or not. But she said she knew she had to because Ebert would have wanted her to thank everyone.

Chaz Ebert remembered her late husband as a “soldier for social justice.'' She said one of the things she loved about Ebert was that he had a heart "big enough to accept and love all.''

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ebert's former Chicago Sun-Times boss John Barron spoke at the funeral.

“Roger Ebert was many, many things," Barron said.  "He of course was a TV star, he was an author, he was a teacher, a philosopher, I’d even call him a poet.  But before he developed the longest and most fascinating resume that I’d ever seen, he was a newspaper man.”

Quinn remembered Ebert as being passionate about education and social justice. Quinn said Ebert was a great teacher and was a supporter of life-long learning. Ebert's nonprofit group The Ebert Foundation supports arts and education programs. Quinn ended his remarks saying "We love you Roger. We always will.''

Mayor Emanuel talked about Ebert's relationship with Chicago. The mayor said that Ebert loved Chicago and "Chicago loved Roger.'' He said Chicago was where Ebert kept his heart and where he found his inspiration. Emanuel said Ebert embodied the values of Chicago. The mayor said that the Pulitzer-Prize winning film critic loved the arts of film and writing but the art Ebert "most enjoyed was living.'' The mayor also said that the public trusted Ebert "because he was one of us.''

Jonathan Jackson read statements from his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and filmmaker Spike Lee.

The service had funny and serious moments. Mayor Emanuel joked that Ebert saw bad movies so the rest of us wouldn't have to. Ebert's stepdaughter, Sonia Evans, remembered him as "a world-class human being.''

There will be another chance for the public to pay tribute to Ebert. Organizers are planning a memorial for Thursday evening at the Chicago Theater. It will include music, moments from Ebert's TV show "At the Movies'' and personal tributes.

In addition, the 15th edition of Ebertfest, the film festival that Ebert founded to showcase overlooked movies, is scheduled to go on without him, April 17-21 , at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.

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