Roger Ebert funeral services set for Monday - FOX 35 News Orlando

Chicago pays respects to Roger Ebert at Holy Name Cathedral

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Funeral services for famed movie critic Roger Ebert took place in the heart of Chicago Monday morning, and mourners started lining up early to pay their respects.

The service began at 10 a.m. at Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. State St., and was open to the public. Seating was first-come, first-serve, and the church was filled to capacity for the mass.

Fr. John Costello, a Jesuit priest, delivered the official eulogy. Costello said he and Ebert frequently discussed his mother's prayer that Roger become a priest; and how he later rejected some church teachings, while embracing others. Ebert often wrote of his Irish-Catholic roots.

Referring to movies about death and its aftermath, Costello offered a cinematic vision of Ebert the skeptic arriving in Heaven.

"Seeing that God face to face, the vanilla sky opens again to welcome one of its own, to a never-ending tenderness, to timeless embraces, to an exploding glory amid the serene-ness of calm, of one who finally knows for sure, yes, he was right all along," Costello said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn spoke at the service, regaling what made the Illinois native and Chicago legend's life and career. They spoke of his unique writing style, his dedication to his readers and to the integrity of film, his passion for education and work ethic.

"Roger also stood for a passion for social justice, Catholic Social Justice," Quinn said. "He was a populist who understood that it's the duty of all of us to take good care of those who don't have a champion."

Jonathan Jackson, son of Rev. Jesse Jackson, spoke of how Ebert's work promoted equality in the film industry and in the world and of how his reviews made him proud to be a young black man in America.

Jackson also relayed the words acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee asked him to recite: That Ebert was a champion of his work, and of the work of black filmmakers as a critical time in history. Lee said Ebert did the right thing, fought the good fight and fought the power with his words.

Ebert worked with Chicago Sun-Times Publisher John Barron, who spoke of Ebert's tireless devotion to his work, and how he was always a newspaper man first. He spoke of how Ebert and long-time "At the Movies" TV partner Gene Siskel called themselves journalists first, and how movie reviews were just an assignment. It was important to both of them to get information to their reader and viewers first, and to get it right the first time.

Barron spoke on how being Roger Ebert's boss was the easiest job in the world. He spoke of how Ebert was the first man with a computer, of how being there for movie-goers 24/7 was of utmost importance to Ebert and how proud he and the paper were of Ebert's dedication to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ebert's step-daughter Sonia Evans spoke of how much her family loved Roger Ebert, and how much he loved his family. She spoke of his dedication to spending time with her children, of the fond memories they all share and of how their lives would have been incomplete without him.

"I'm the happiest when I think about how he and my mother found each other and had a great life together," Sonia Evans, Ebert's step-daughter said.

Chaz Ebert, Roger's long-time love and widow, stepped up to the podium at Holy Name Cathedral to thunderous applause. She was wearing Ebert's favorite hat.

Chaz spoke of how she woke up Monday morning, trying to pretend it wasn't the day of her husband's funeral. She spoke of how she gathered her courage to speak about her husband in front of this large crowd, and spoke of how much she loved him. Chaz' words were poignant, sincere, and funny, just as his writing always was.

The applause continued as Chaz stepped down, until she was seated again in the first row.

Gene Siskel's widow, Marlene, was also in attendance. Near the end of the funeral, his family shared the highs and lows of coping with their grief.

SEE: PHOTOS: Remembering famed movie critic Roger Ebert

Ebert, 70, died on Thursday following a public battle with cancer. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for the Chicago Sun-Times died two days after announcing that his cancer had returned and that he would be taking "a leave of presence." He worked for the newspaper for more than 45 years.

"I wouldn't go see a movie without seeing the weekend plugs first," one Chicago viewer said.

Ebert wrote constantly - nearly 200 articles per year. In the last year of his life, Ebert wrote 306 reviews, in addition to doing some blogging, other articles. He said oftentimes he would watch 10 to 12 movies a week.

"The first thing we would check were his reviews," a Chicago reader said. I was trying to explain why they were so important, and the word that I came up was they were so accessible."

The film critic had also planned to move his work online, to the RogerEbert.com website exclusively devoted to the movies he wanted to review. Ebert's final movie review was posted on his web site Sunday for "To the Wonder," a new film starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. He gave it 3 1/2 stars.

Ebert grew up in Urbana, Ill. and attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

"I first read them at the University of Illinois when he wrote some of his first columns," another Ebert follower said. "He talked about what's the big deal with USC, UCLA, NYU - there were film classes at the universities, and I didn't know. That thanks to him I found the film classes, and then thanks to him I learned about film."

Much the Chicago man, residents will miss him for more than just his prolific work.

"We frequented the same bar, O'Rourke's," another Chicagoan said, who remembered one time when he even saw Ebert dancing on a bar. "We were part of the crowd that were regulars there. He was a great guy. [We] spent a lot of time with him. He will definitely be missed."

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked to send donations to The Ebert Foundation, ℅ Northern Trust at 50 St. LaSalle Street. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports arts and education programs.

A memorial tribute for legendary film critic Roger Ebert is scheduled for Thursday, at the Chicago Theatre. Attendees will remember the Pulitzer Prize winner's prolific life and career at the event. It's said to be a more light-hearted memorial service with Gospel music, and perhaps, some of the movies he covered for 46 years.

SEE: Roger Ebert memorial tribute planned for Chicago Theatre

The event is open to the public, but seats must be reserved ahead of time. To make a reservation, please call 773-528-7700 or email rsvp@ebertpresents.com starting at 10 a.m. Monday.

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