CHICAGO — Roger Ebert was celebrated Monday as a film critic, newspaperman, social-justice soldier, husband, father, grandfather, and champion of artists and imagination, but the great cross-section of mourners at his Holy Name Cathedral funeral spoke to a quality that perhaps reigned above all others: Roger Ebert — someone who loved and united people.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke to this quality in his eulogy, saying that the Chicago Sun-Times film critic and essayist had learned the large lesson: “Life is too short not to be shared with others. … The art that Roger most enjoyed was living.”
Looking out upon the hundreds of people who had just given her a standing ovation as she approached the pulpit, Chaz Ebert, Roger’s widow, said: “He would have loved this. He would have loved the majesty of it. He would have loved everything about it. He would have loved (that) we’re all here for him.”
She added later: “He had a heart big enough to accept and love all.” Ebert made many, many such connections in the 70 years before his death Thursday after a prolonged cancer battle.
Mourners began arriving, in the rain, hours before the funeral’s 10 a.m. start time, nearly filling the cavernous cathedral with a “This Is Your Life” assortment of film executives (such as Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker), filmmakers (such as “El Norte”/“Selena” director Gregory Nava, who spoke from the pulpit of Ebert’s support of artists), Illinois politicians (Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin, Emanuel), former producers of Ebert’s TV shows with late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel (Larry Dieckhaus, Don DuPree, the latter a pallbearer), film critics, publicists and familiar faces in Chicago media (Ron Magers, Linda Yu, Steve Dahl and Richard Roeper, who also served a pallbearer).