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Fans come out to mourn Roger Ebert: ‘He’s a legend’

Chaz Ebert family following  funeral services for husblegendary Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert Holy Name Cathedral Monday April 8

Chaz Ebert and family following funeral services for husband, legendary Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert at Holy Name Cathedral, Monday, April 8, 2013. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 10, 2013 6:23AM



They began lining up 2 1/2 hours before the funeral mass, in a downpour that left dress shoes squelchy and winds that ripped hats off heads and flipped umbrellas inside out.

An out-of-work West Sider, a coffee barista, a young online movie critic, a retired teacher — all united by their love of a man of uncommon grace, intelligence and courage.

Matt Fagerholm, a young online movie critic and the first in line outside Holy Name Cathedral for Roger Ebert’s funeral, recalled meeting Ebert for the first time when Fagerholm was still writing for his college paper.

“I talked to him — just about anything, and I saw his eyes light up,” Fagerholm recalled. “Just being able to have him as a colleague and a friendly acquaintance was a huge honor.”

But most of the people standing out in the rain — the VIPs with reserved seats wore yellow wrist bands — had never met the Chicago Sun-Times critic. It didn’t matter. They felt like they knew him anyway.

Jason Nebergall, a coffee barista and web designer from West Town, said he’d been reading Ebert’s movie reviews and watching him on TV “ever since I can remember.”

But what will likely remain with Nebergall are the messy, beautiful details about life that Ebert shared in his blog.

“I felt I got to know him in a way I don’t normally get to know public figures,” Nebergall said.

Peggy Callahan, 67, a retired teacher from the Far North Side, said she’ll remember Ebert — not for the movies he reviewed — but for his own epic of a life: His undying love for his wife, Chaz Ebert, and the way he faced and dealt with cancer.

“To me, he’s a legend,” Callahan said. “It’s beyond words, it’s incredibly courageous. And the love story with Chaz is so inspiring.”

Edward Cooper, an unemployed West Sider, echoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s words from the cathedral altar when he said: “I could never see a movie unless I saw his review.”



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