Director recalls Ebert's final moment

Film critic Roger Ebert is seen in this AP file photo. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)

April 5, 2013 4:16:31 PM PDT
Fans of film critic Roger Ebert are remembering the man who influenced movie-goers around the work and some of them gathered for a vigil Friday morning on the city's South Side.

Roger Ebert was not only a Chicago treasure, he was a legend worldwide, a man who, with his unpretentious manner, made a difference in the film industry and has been called the father of independent film making in this country.

He also made this a better place to live in. Ebert the fighter fought hard to live and in the end was surrounded by family and friends when he passed away.

Two weeks ago he contacted his close friend, director Gregory Nava and asked him to come to Chicago to be with him. Nava was at his side at the end.

"I was there with him in the hospital room when he passed," he said. "It was one of the most, probably the most profoundly moving transcendent experiences of my life. He was my dear friend and gift to our country and to the world. He went peacefully, he went beautifully with a smile on his face."

The two friends first met in 1976 when Nava premiered a film at the Biograph Theater and Ebert came up to him.

"He said, 'Hello my name is Roger Ebert and I loved your movie,'" Nava said. "I represent all of the mavericks, all of the independents. He was there for us ."

Nava called his friend a genius, a passionate man about life, his work, his family and the love of his life his wife, Chaz.

"The courage that she has shown has been amazing, and Roger wrote, 'I am alive because of Chaz, she gives me a reason to live,'" he said. "I guess I just want to say that for all of us who loved him, I feel his heart is still with us and I am so privileged and honored to say he was my friend."

Nava wants everyone to know that Ebert was one of the greatest dates in the world, always full of fun and storytelling.

He says Ebert would not want us to cry or mourn his passing. He would want us to go to a steak and shake and tell jokes and share stories about him and that is how he would want us to celebrate his life

Nava says he has put all of his projects on hold and will stay with Ebert's wife and family for as long as they need him to stay.