September 25, 1952 – October 10, 2004
He once played a man who could fly. Christopher Reeve demonstrated a rare ability that exceeds the speed of flight. Christopher learned to live outside his body in a way that few people have the strength or courage to do.
All of us are, in some ways, prisoners in life — some by limited thinking, others by physical limitation. But rarely has a man demonstrated such a wonderful ability to face limitation, to cry for all that it robbed him of, and then step beyond it into a life that knows no limitation.
Name: Christopher Reeve
Born: September 25, 1952 in New York, New York
Home: Westchester County, N.Y.
As a Role Model: Known the world over as Superman, Christopher Reeve served as a symbol of strength, the force of good, with the ability to fly and soar over the problems of man. He was strength and mobility personified to people throughout the world. Thus, it came as a shock when Christopher Reeve fell from his horse during a riding show accident, and landed on his head. The fall broke his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the neck down.
In the face of enormous frustration, Reeve held up as an example of courage in the face of enormous frustration. Although he was not able to move from the waist down, Reeve continued to travel, do public appearances, and serve as a voice for the paralyzed in the United States.
Christopher made numerous public appearances around the US after his accident. He was a proponent for medical research to help quadriplegics. He gave the commencement speech at Boston University in May, 1997 and urged the medical graduates to “show us the cures.” Reeve was unable to move his limbs and was confined to a wheelchair that he operated by sipping or puffing on a straw. Reeve continued to fight with incredible strength of will and optimism–and remained convinced that he would walk again.
The former Superman admitted that he cried every day dealing with the reality of being in a wheelchair. “In the morning, I need twenty minutes to cry,” he said. “To wake up and make that shift, you know, and to just say, “This really sucks”…to really allow yourself the feeling of loss…still needs to be acknowledged.”
But after his long, hard cry each day, he would tell himself, “And now, forward!”
Christopher Reeve has been an example to us all, that you keep on going in spite of limitations.
Despite his paralysis, Reeve directed the HBO film In The Gloaming. It starred Glenn Close, Bridget Fonda, and Whoopi Goldberg.
The film stars Robert Sean Leonard who plays the part of a young man with AIDS who comes home to die. He is cared for by his mother who is played by Glenn Close.
In April, 1997 Reeve was honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The week before this in April, Christopher Reeve broke his arm and had surgery, but he still managed to attend the premiere of his directing debut. He was working out on an exercise bike and as he was being transferred from the bike to his wheelchair, the people who lift him got out of sync. Christopher fell over on his side and his arm snapped like a match stick. It was repaired with a titanium rod that was inserted into his arm.
Even though he felt a little “feeble” he went on with the premiere. He was grateful to be in the company of other directors who were welcoming him into the fraternity of directors. Christopher said: “I’m starting a new chapter in my life, and you have no idea how much that means.”
While under great handicap from his paralysis, Christopher Reeve continued to travel and do outreach work. He joined Cal Ripken, Jr. as a featured speaker at a motivational conference in Washington D.C. He went to the New School in Manhattan to give a speech to students. While doing so his body went into crazy spasms. While being attended to he joked, “Sorry. One second, guys. I’ll be right with you…. Now, where were we?”
The former Superman was given the National Courage Award at the Minnesota Courage Center. He also joined his good friend Robin Williams at a fund-raising dinner to benefit victims of spinal cord injuries.
Biggest Goal and Wish: Reeve said he had one wish, and that was to hug his son, Will. “That’s what he’s entitled to,” Reeve said. “And I believe that day is coming.”
Early Beginnings: As a boy, Christopher Reeve studied piano and voice, worked as an assistant orchestra conductor, and made his acting debut with a Princeton, New Jersey theater company at age nine.
College Education: Graduated from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Studied drama at the Juilliard School in New York where he roomed with comedian Robin Williams. Performed his Master’s degree performances at London’s Old Vic and a t the Comedie Francaise in Paris.
Early Acting History: Played in a TV soap opera, Love of Life, and played on Broadway in A Matter of Gravity opposite Kathryn Hepburn.
Most Famous Role: Reeve was chosen from a pool of more than two hundred actors to play Superman. His looks, his fitness and physique and charming humility breathed life into the comic book hero. The great success of Superman meant three very popular sequels. While Christopher appeared in other films, it is his role as Superman that made him famous.
Other Interests: Reeve has done documentaries and a TV special about aviation and sailing, which are two of his life passions. He also has been a passionate spokesperson for the arts and helped to found the Creative Coalition, a non-partisan advocacy group of artists including Ron Silver, Glenn Close, Blair Brown, and Susan Sarandon — who concern themselves with the environment, homelessness and the protection of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Christopher Reeve’s Family: Wife: Dana Morosini, Son: William (with Dana). He has two other children, Matthew and Alexandra, (from his relationship with Gae Exton.)
Christopher Reeve believes that there is a cosmic purpose to his accident and he was very successful in his efforts to lobby in Washington for increased funding for spinal cord research. He wass trying to help other people with the same type of paralysis. Christopher Reeve was an example to us all.
Closing Quote from Christopher Reeve: “When the first Superman movie came out I was frequently asked ‘What is a hero?’ I remember the glib response I repeated so many times. My answer was that a hero is someone who commits a courageous action without considering the consequences–a soldier who crawls out of a foxhole to drag an injured buddy to safety. And I also meant individuals who are slightly larger than life: Houdini and Lindbergh, John Wayne, JFK, and Joe DiMaggio. Now my definition is completely different. I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.