Roger Ebert’s widow says she’s “devastated” to lose the man she called the love of her life, adding that he was “getting tired of his fight with cancer.”
“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition,” Chaz Ebert said in a statement released shortly after the legendary film critic’s death today.
She said her husband – whom she called her friend, confidante and partner for more than 20 years – had 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 wrote, adding that they had a “lovely” life together.
“It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other,” she wrote.
Ebert posted a blog about the depth of his feelings for his wife on their 20th wedding anniversary. In except from his memoir, “My Life,” that appeared on his blog at the Chicago Sun-Times — the newspaper where he established his career as a film critic — Ebert said his wife had been steadfastly with him through sickness and health.
“How can I begin to tell you about Chaz?” he posted on July 17, 2012. “She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading. If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude.”
During his long illness, Ebert wrote, his wife “never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live … her love was like a wind forcing me back from the grave.”
He said he fell in love with her because of her strength.
When they were dating, “She knew where she stood, and I found that attractive,” Ebert wrote, adding that as they exchanged emails during their relationship, he observed that “she never, ever, made a copy-reading error.”
After he proposed to her, in Monte Carlo, she quit her job as a lawyer to become vice president of the Ebert Company.
“It wasn’t merely a title,” Ebert wrote. “She organized my contracts, protected my interests, negotiated, wheeled and dealed. I’ve never understood business and have no patience with business meetings or legal details. I had a weakness for signing things just to make them go away. She observed this, and defended me. It was a partnership.”
They traveled the world, and Chaz and Roger Ebert had fun doing that.
Roger Ebert had two stepchildren, Sonia and Jay, and four grandchildren, Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph, Chaz Ebert’s statement said.
“Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were ‘the best things in my life,’” she said. “He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life. ”
Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work, was 70 years old.
He reached celebrity status in the 1980s and ’90s hosting popular syndicated film review programs.
Since 2002, Ebert endured several bouts with cancer, resulting in invasive surgeries that left him severely debilitated. In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment took his jaw, stripping him of his ability to talk, eat and drink.
On April 3, 2013, Ebert announced that he was taking a “leave of presence” after a “painful fracture” that made it difficult for him to walk revealed new cancer.
ABC News’ Troy McMullen contributed to this report.