06/29/2007 at 07:15 PM EDT
After a decade-long cancer battle, Good Morning America'
s film critic Joel Siegel died Friday in New York with friends and family by his side. He was 63.
"He was a brilliant reviewer and a great reporter," said ABC News President David Westin. "From the time he learned of his cancer, Joel demonstrated a remarkable courage and strength in reporting on his own disease in an effort to educate and help others."
s movie reviewer since 1981, the witty and insightful critic was as passionate with his praise for a good film as he was delivering a barb to a bomb. Rating The Pursuit of Happyness
, Siegel said the film deserves "a C for spelling and an A for acting." And he said Matthew McConaughey
had "constant ticks, bad hair and strained syntax" in We Are Marshall
First diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997 – a week after he and wife, Ena Swansea, found out she was pregnant with their son, Dylan – Siegel wrote about his illness in his 2003 book Lessons for Dylan
"I think of all the things I want to do with Dylan, and what I'd miss if I wasn't able to do them," he once told PEOPLE. "One is taking him to his first ball game. I want to be there for that. I want to be sitting next to him when he watches the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera
Ten days ago, in one of his last public appearances, a frail-looking Siegel took Dylan to a screening of the soon-to-be released film Ratatouille
at a Times Square movie theatre.
"He was a gladiator," recalled colleague Diane Sawyer on ABC's Web site
. "Brave, wildly funny, passionate about Dylan, Ena and his family – and completely in love with every new day."