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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Leonard Doyle (1928-2018): Longtime Ebertfest Greeter at Virginia Theatre

With a heavy heart, we must report the passing of Leonard Doyle, our beloved longtime greeter at Ebertfest, who died January 25th at age 89, surrounded by four generations of his family. Mr Doyle worked at the Virginia Theater for 67 years, and was a big fan of Roger Ebert's Film Festival (Ebertfest). 

Linda told me that her father was so excited that Roger brought Ebertfest to his home town, and that he enjoyed watching films on the big screen, though would often watch moves at home in his later years. He loved comedies, musicals and westerns, though his favorite films of all were those featuring James Bond, which Leonard enjoyed chatting about with "Mr. Bond," our ace projectionist at Ebertfest. 


"He made sure everyone in line had a seat," Linda told us, recalling her father's many years of service as an usher at our festival. "He enjoyed the people that came to Ebertfest, especially the actors that came to speak about their movies." 

Leonard was born on November 13th, 1928, near Ivesdale, to Margaret and Frank Doyle, and adopted by his uncle and aunt, Mike and Julia Doyle, at four weeks of age, after the death of his mother. He married Loretto B. O'Connor on October 18th, 1952, at the St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Ivesdale.

His community involvement besides the Virginia Theatre included co-founding of the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company (CUTC). For 65 years, he held numerous positions in the local and state councils of the Knights of Columbus and Squires. He was actively involved in the Champaign-Urbana Freedom Celebration for over 50 years.

He enjoyed diversity while working 43 years at the Assembly Hall and over 20 years for Owens Funeral Home. He retired from Eisner-Jewel after 32 years of service and 17 years with the Mass Transit District. He also served as Eucharistic minister for Holy Cross Catholic Church for over 40 years. Leonard was never without a community project due to his love of people.

Leonard is survived by five daughters, Margaret Doyle, Mary (John) Bartko, Brenda Hyre and Linda (Ken) Knox, all of Champaign, and Barbara (Mike) Wallace of La Moille. Other survivors include 12 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, three nieces and two nephews. Last November, Leonard celebrated his 89th birthday at an open house where he shared memories  with family members, long-time friends and former co-workers.

I asked his daughters if he passed along any last words of wisdom to them. This is what they told me:


Margaret: "Don't be afraid or worry once I'm gone, you will be ok".
Mary: When she would drive for the blood bank, "Be carful driving". Barbara: "Enjoy being with your family".
Brenda: "Take care of yourself, your kids and grandchildren, like you've taken care of me".
Linda: "Continue fundraising and volunteering, keep my legacy alive".

He was preceded in death by his wife, parents, sister and one great-grandchild.

Memorials may be made to Holy Cross Catholic Church or St. Vincent DePaul Society through Holy Cross Church.

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