CHICAGO, April 5 (UPI) -- Roger Ebert's wife of 20 years, Chaz, said the famed Chicago film critic smiled just before he died peacefully after a battle with cancer.
"We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away," Chaz Ebert said Thursday in a statement to People.com. "No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition."
Ebert's wife said she was "devastated" by the loss of "my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner."
"He fought a courageous fight. I've lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world," she said. "We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other."
Ebert, 70, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic who began writing for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He later gained national celebrity status as the host of movie review TV programs such as "Coming Soon to a Theater Near You," "Sneak Previews," "At the Movies," "Siskel & Ebert & The Movies" and "Ebert & Roeper." It was during his television career that he perfected the trademark thumbs up or thumbs down signs to recommend or blast thousands of movies during his programs.
Ebert slowed down a bit after a battle with thyroid cancer, which began in 2002. Although he had been unable to speak or eat solid foods for the past several years, due to complications from the disease and reconstructive surgeries, he kept writing until shortly before his death.