Remembering Joel Siegel

Friends and co-workers share their thoughts on the beloved movie critic.

June 29, 2007 — -- Over the course of three decades, Joel Siegel touched the lives of so many members of the ABC News family. Here's what they had to say about his passing:

Diane Sawyer:

He was a gladiator — brave, wildly funny, passionate about Dylan, Ena and his family — and completely in love with every new day.

Film critic may have been his job description — what he really did was tell us about the wonder and heartbreak of life.

The wonder was to know him. The heartbreak, today.

All of us love Joel. Present tense. Without end.

Charles Gibson:

Joel was so much more than a colleague … he was a friend. He was also a personal friend to millions of "Good Morning America" viewers — anyone who loved movies and the arts. For Joel's great passion was that people be entertained and that they be enriched by what they see and hear — whether in a theatre, at a concert, in an art gallery, on a television screen, or even in their mind's eye.

Joel was a very bright man — brilliant actually. Joel was also a man of impeccable taste. When Joel came into your office to talk about anything — it was going to be interesting and you were going to learn something.

He had an inexhaustible supply of stories — most funny, many poignant, all with a point or a punch line.

He loved his friends; he loved his son. And he leaves the most marvelous legacy — his book, "Lessons for Dylan" — Dylan being the son he had late in life and knew he wouldn't see to maturity. Joel learned of his cancer before Dylan was even born. In his inimitable style Joel wrote beautifully what he wanted his son to know about his father, and about life.

Find what you really love, he told his son. Joel did exactly that. And all his friends — the ones he knew, the ones who only saw him on television — are the better for it.

Robin Roberts:

Joel was truly unique. It's hard to stand out in this industry but Joel did just that. I will miss his wit, his laugh and his passion for life. There was much that I admired about Joel and I also appreciated his crusade for civil rights. I will miss our conversations about film and our families. He was a real Oscar winner in my book. My life, professionally and personally, is richer for having known Joel Siegel.

Chris Cuomo:

Joel was a teacher... of history, of advocacy, of broadcasting... of balance in life... and most of all he taught us all about simply loving what you do.

Sam Champion:

Joel Siegel was the treasure chest of film knowledge... but that's not what made him the greatest in the business. He had the ability to take that vast knowledge and artfully wrap it in his pure enthusiam for entertainment. We were all fortunate to have known this wonderful man... and to have been the audience for reviews so artfully crafted, they were often a better experience than the event itself. He was a brilliant wit, a word craftsman and precious soul. I will forever love him and miss him.

Bill Weir:

If you were lucky enough to run into Joel in the hallways, you were guaranteed a great joke, a great story and mention of his beloved son, Dylan, who was born as Joel started chemotherapy. Such a wonderful father.

There was no short conversation with Joel. It was like eating potato chips. There was another joke, another great story. The last time I saw him in the building, I didn't stop him because I was up against a deadline, didn't have time. I'd give anything to have that 10-minute chance once again.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:

There were four kinds of e-mails from Joel: (1) Good news; (2) Bad news; (3) Encouragement involving your own problems, and (4) Jokes. Mostly we got jokes. If all else had failed, Joel could have been a stand-up comic; in early days, he was a joke writer for Robert Kennedy. On the other hand, he ran a voter registration program for Martin Luther King, Jr., in Macon, Georgia.'

From the first day I met him, when he was a network star and I was only, well, an out-of-towner, Joel was a friend. We worked the red carpet every year at the Oscars, interviewing each other when things got slow. Chaz and I had dinner with Joel and his wife, the well-known artist Ena Swansea, soon after he got the bad health news, but he wasn't downbeat; he had hope and determination.