The longtime film critic and University of Illinois graduate passed away Thursday at the age of 70… a day after Ebert announced on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment for a hip fracture that turned out to be cancerous.
Steve Shoemaker attended Urbana High School with Ebert… who was a writer for the (Champaign) News-Gazette those years. He says Ebert’s earlier days as a journalist included writing about high school sports, including Shoemaker’s basketball games at Urbana High:
“Roger’s skills as a critic showed up very early. But he could be very kind. He could analyze things well, he was brilliant. He could see flaws in people’s arguments. And he was a good debater. But he also could be very kind to people. Not only famous people, film directors. But a high school athlete.” Retired Journalist Dave Reed, who knew Ebert from the university’s Daily Illini newspaper, and his early years at the Chicago Sun-Times… say they never expected him to become a film critic. Reed says Ebert also loved to write about politics. The news of Ebert’s passing comes just two weeks before the opening of his 15th annual Ebertfest at the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign, running April 17th through the 21st.