Tributes Pour in for Christopher Reeve
Fans gathered to place flowers and candles on Christopher Reeve's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Monday, as former costars and political leaders, including President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, expressed their admiration and appreciation of the actor-activist.
The Superman star, who suffered a devastating neck injury in a riding accident in 1995 that left him a quadriplegic, died of heart failure in a New York hospital on Sunday. He was 52. Reeve had been under treatment for an infection caused by a bedsore when he slipped into a coma. He never recovered.
One of Reeve's physicians, Dr. Raymond Onders of the University Hospitals of Cleveland, said most people suffering a similar spinal injury live for about seven years, but Reeve had managed to survive for nine.
Reeve was an active campaigner for advancing the study of embryonic stem cell research, which he believed might one day allow him to walk again, and he was an outspoken critic of President Bush's 2001 decision to limit federal funding to existing stem cell study.
Even so, the president issued a statement in which he said, "Laura and I are saddened. ... Mr. Reeve was an example of personal courage, optimism and self-determination. He was brave in the face of adversity and was greatly admired by millions of Americans."
Kerry, who is in support of the stem-cell research – and in the course of last Friday's debate had even invoked Reeve's name as he stressed the need for further research – said that Reeve left him a cell phone message the day after the debate, to express his thanks.
Calling his late friend "America's hero" and "an inspiration to us all," Kerry, on a campaign stump in Santa Fe, N.M., said Reeve "met every challenge with a courage and character that broke new ground in this struggle. ... Without leaving his wheelchair, he was able to make great strides toward a cure for conditions like his. I know that one day we will realize Chris's inevitable dream."
On the Senate floor Monday, reports The New York Times, Sen. Edward Kennedy said: "This election is critical to achieving Christopher Reeve's vision, because only one candidate for president – John Kerry – is committed not only to stem cell research but to good science generally, science not constrained by ideology or partisanship."
Around the world, those who had worked with Reeve during his film career fondly recalled his professionalism and courtesy, to say nothing of his striking good looks – and his efforts on behalf of science.
Mary Tyler Moore, who suffers from diabetes and is herself an advocate for stem cell research, said that Reeve, who costarred with her in the TV movie I Love Liberty, "has long held my admiration for his work on spinal cord injury research and for his tireless efforts on behalf of stem cell research. He will be missed, but his legacy offers hope and reminds us to continue the fight."
Susannah York, the British actress who played Superman's mother in the 1977 screen epic that made him a household name, told the BBC Monday that Reeve's life was a "great achievement," and that he "was very like how he comes across on film – very strong, very brave, very forthright and very generous-spirited."
Meanwhile, Reeve's own mother, journalist Barbara Johnson, had some touching words to say about her son. Speaking to TV's The Insider on Monday, she said: "He put up with a lot. ... I'm glad that he is free of all those tubes."
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