CHICAGO, April 8 (UPI) -- Roger Ebert's fans, friends and family gathered at his funeral Monday at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral to say goodbye to the late film critic.
Ebert, 70, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie reviewer who began writing for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He later gained national celebrity status as the host of the TV programs "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 began the trademark thumbs-up or thumbs-down signs used recommend or disapprove of thousands of movies.
Ebert slowed down during a battle with thyroid cancer, which began in 2002. Although he had been unable to speak or eat solid foods since 2006, due to complications from the disease and reconstructive surgeries, he kept writing right up to his death last week.
"Whether or not we knew Roger, we knew he loved Chicago and Chicago loved Roger," the Sun-Times quoted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as saying during his remarks at Ebert's funeral mass. "He didn't just dominate his profession. He defined it. Like generations of Chicagoans, before I went to a movie, I needed to find out two things: what times does it start and what did Roger think about it. He was the most American of critics in the most American of cities."
"He had a heart big enough to accept and love all," the Chicago Tribune reported Ebert's wife, Chaz, told mourners. "Roger would want me to thank you. He would have loved this. He would have loved the majesty of it. My heart is so full. This morning I didn't want to get out of bed. I wanted to pretend this wasn't the day of his funeral. And then it felt like he was there with me. One of the things that I loved about Roger -- besides the fact that he had the biggest heart I've ever seen -- is that he really was a soldier for social justice. And it didn't matter to him your race, creed, color, level of ability, sexual orientation."
The Sun-Times said columnist Richard Roeper, Ebert's longtime friend, was among the pallbearers who carried his casket up and down the cathedral steps Monday.
A memorial tribute is scheduled Thursday at the Chicago Theatre. Free and open to the public, the event is expected to include music, a screening of video clips from "At the Movies," and personal tributes from his wife, Chaz, and granddaughter, Raven.
Those who wish to reserve seats are asked to call 773-528-7700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org