• John McHugh
  • Roger Ebert

The Sun-Times reported that writer/film critic/television personality/mensch Roger Ebert died earlier today after battling cancer for over a decade. He was 70 years old.

Over the next couple weeks, numerous people will write about the influence Ebert had on their lives (and expect some from the Reader as well). We’ve done our fair share of writing about Ebert, whether through the prism of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s film reviews or otherwise, such as a 2011 column by media critic Michael Miner that looked at the memoir Life Itself. Miner:

No one in Chicago better embodies grace at twilight than Roger Ebert, who has written openly and frankly about the physical disasters that cost him his lower face, his voice, and his ability to swallow food. That they spared his writing gifts, sharpened his memories, and deepened his character is reason for rejoicing. Ebert’s new memoir, Life Itself, rollicks where you want it to rollick, but its most compelling quality is its comfort with the nearness of death.

We were at the Sun-Times together for several years in the 70s, but I was at the front of the large newsroom and he was in the back and we had nothing to do with each other. My friend Gary Houston knew him better. Houston was a feature writer who moonlighted in local theater, and his desk and Ebert’s were a few feet apart.