We’re shocked and saddened at the Seattle Times this morning: Longtime Times freelance contributor Jeff Shannon, who’s been writing thoughtful movie reviews for us for more than 20 years, died Friday in Edmonds of complications from pneumonia, with family members at his side. He was 52 years old. Movies were a lifelong passion for Jeff, a Seattle native who also wrote about cinema for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Microsoft Cinemania, Amazon.com and Rogerebert.com. After a 1979 diving accident left him a C-5/6 quadriplegic, Jeff became a tireless advocate for the disabled, writing numerous articles on disability (many for New Mobility magazine) and serving on the Washington State Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment. Though health problems made it difficult for Jeff to continue to review movies in recent years, all who knew him were moved by his determination to carry on in the face of severe challenges — to keep on writing about what he loved. He was a friend to many, and an inspiration to all.
Among Jeff’s last reviews for us were “Finding Mr. Right,” “Birth of the Living Dead,” and “Blue Caprice.” This past September, he wrote a personal essay for the website facingdisability.com, about how his injury changed the direction of his life. In it, he quoted Stephen Hawking, famously disabled by ALS, who once said, “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.” In the essay, Jeff wrote of how as a teenager he dreamed of being an actor, or a musician; when those career paths became impossible for him post-accident, he changed his plan. In words that surely brought hope to countless readers, he described how he took Hawking’s quote to heart: Figure out what you love, Jeff wrote, and find a way to do it.