Jeff Shannon, longtime Seattle film critic and a good friend, passed away on Friday, December 20, after a long struggle with pneumonia. Even if you didn’t know Jeff, if you’ve lived in Seattle for any length of time you surely read his reviews in the Seattle Times or, before that, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He was a part of the original Cinemania DVD-ROM, wrote for RogerEbert.com, and hundreds of his capsule reviews can still be found on Amazon, where he was a long-time freelance critic and, for a few years, an editor in their DVD section.
And in 2008, he teamed up with a few optimistic Seattle film critics to found Parallax View, a project into which he was unfortunately unable to put much time in recent years. You can find his contributions here.
Jeff was also disabled, confined to a wheelchair since an accident in 1979 left him paralyzed from the chest down, with use of arms but no control over his fingers. With the help of glove-like pointers, he wrote thousands of articles and reviews, first on typewriter and then on computer, and with a modified van with hand controls and wheelchair lock in place of a driver’s seat, he had the mobility that the rest of us take for granted. Jeff refused to let his disability limit his options. At least until health issues started taking their toll in the last few years. He didn’t talk about them much, but he was spending more and more time in hospitals, fighting infections and illness.
More than anything, Jeff loved movies. He loved to talk about them, he loved to write about them, and he especially loved to watch them, preferably in the theater but increasingly at home as his health issues worsened. That was tough on him because Jeff loved the big screen experience. He went to get swept away by the movies and could not contain his enthusiasm when they did so.
His brother Kevin took over Jeff’s Facebook page over the last few days and posted this upon Jeff’s passing:
It is with both great sadness and great joy that I report the passing of my little brother Jeff. We will arrange for a memorial service after the New Year. We will also let you all know at that time where any remembrances can be made.
He fought so hard for so long, but put an end to his trials this afternoon at 2:25. He was able to clearly communicate to me his wish to be off the ventilator. The tubes were removed at 2:10 and he died in peace and without pain just 15 minutes later.
My wife and I were with him the whole time, our sister spoke to him over speakerphone, and he faced his death as he faced his life, head on, with focused, solid purpose and reason. He was very much at peace, and at the very end, even appeared happy.
My God, how he loved and appreciated you all. Each of your well wishes and prayers were conveyed to him and he knew to the end the passion and concern and love you had for him.
One of our favorite films as kids was “Little Big Man” and I told him, as Chief Dan George’s character often said in the film, “It is a good day to die.” There was an almost laugh to his response, but with my final words to him, he was gone.
“Fly. Run. Be free.”
In the last few months, Jeff wrote a column for Facing Disability. Those essays can be found here.