Rich Wilhelm

Roger Ebert, the Kegerreis Duet, Life and How to Live It

In Philosophy/Creativity on April 5, 2013 at 3:34 am

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Roger Ebert died today. I cannot claim, as many others can, that I have followed his writing for years. My nephew Mike is one of those people and you ought to go read his blog post about Ebert. Go, ahead, do it now. I’ll wait. You can find Mike’s entry at http://michaelroyfisher.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/in-memoriam-roger-ebert/ .

OK. Isn’t Mike’s entry great? While I have not been influenced in the way that Mike has by Ebert, I have admired his online presence over the last several years. Ebert was obviously a brilliant film critic and writer but what I love most about him is that he did not let cancer stop him. Ever. I admire that quality in anybody, Pulitzer Prize winner or not, who is dealing with cancer.

In his memoir, Life Itself, Roger Ebert wrote the following:

“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health and our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know that and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

When it came to the meaning of life, it seems as though Ebert got it, which brings me to the Kegerreis Duet. Just after reading Ebert’s reflections on kindness, I was coincidentally listening to Jesus Took Care Of It All, a gospel record made long ago by John and Fannie Sue Kegerreis, a father/daughter duo from Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. Both father and daughter sing, with Fannie Sue playing accordion. The album is filled with gospel tunes, though an instrumental with the intriguing title, “Brighten The Corner,” is also included.

This is the kind of record that I might have listened to ironically in my younger days. Now, though, I can’t hear the raw charm of Jesus Took Care Of It All and see the obvious sincerity on the faces of John and Fannie Sue on the album cover and not appreciate what the Kegerreises were doing, regardless of whether or not my religious beliefs match up with theirs. In Ebert’s words, it’s quite apparent that John and Fannie Sue were attempting “to make others a little happier,” as well as to make themselves a little happier. My well-worn copy of Jesus Took Care Of It All seems to indicate that some previous owner was happy to have the record spinning around their turntable.

Of course, the truth is that I know nothing of the Kegerreis family, other than what I hear in the grooves of Jesus Took Care Of It All. Maybe there was some dark undercurrent to their story. But, at least for tonight, I’m going with the theory that John and Fannie Sue Kegerreis made the album as a sincere attempt “to contribute joy to the world.” They certainly brought some joy to me today, as did the life and work of Roger Ebert. So tonight, I thank Ebert, as well as John and Fannie Sue Kegerreis, for the inspiration to do what I can to contribute a little bit of joy to the world.

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

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