Monday, July 7, 2008


Dear Friends,
Early in the morning of July 3, my brother Ben Byer lost his battle against ALS. He fought up until the end but his body did not match his spirit. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, July 8 at 2:30 pm at Shalom Memorial Park, 1700 W. Rand Road in Arlington Heights, IL. The party that Ben and I were planning for July 17th, to thank all of you, our supporters and friends, will still happen and we welcome you there if you are in the Chicago area. In addition to celebrating the Chicago Premiere of Indestructible, we will celebrate Ben's life and the legacy he is leaving. He would not want it any other way. Our website has the information and we hope you will come to celebrate his life with us. I will continue to work toward fulfilling the mission of ALS Film Fund in raising awareness and change for this brutal disease in Ben's name, his memory, his spirit and his honor.
Sincerely, Rebeccah Rush
phone: 312-848-5919

1 comment:

Sleepy said...

Nice obit in the Chicago Tribune --,0,5806586.story
Ben Byer 1971 ~ 2008
Documented ALS struggle
By Mary Owen

Chicago Tribune reporter

July 12, 2008

Not long after Ben Byer—a Chicago actor, playwright and director—was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease six years ago, he mentioned to a friend that he was thinking about making a film about facing the disease.

The friend sent him a camera. The result was an award-winning documentary about his struggle and his journey around the world to understand the disease. The film, "Indestructible," will have its Chicago premiere Friday.

"What started out as a way to express himself creatively, turned into something much bigger," said Mr. Byer's sister Rebeccah Rush, who produced the film. "It started as a naive project and grew into his legacy."

Mr. Byer, 37, died Thursday, July 3, in a Cleveland hospital days after surgery to implant a diaphragm pacer to assist his breathing, his sister said. Commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is an incurable degenerative neurological disease.

Mr. Byer started filming video diaries almost immediately after his diagnosis. After his small motor skills started to deteriorate and hinder his ability to operate the camera, he solicited the help of childhood friend Roko Belic, whose 1999 documentary "Genghis Blues" was nominated for an Academy Award.

"Indestructible" debuted in March 2007 at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. It rolled out in theaters beginning in May with openings in Madison, Wis., Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The film—funded primarily by about 800 individual donors—won awards at Cinequest and the Midwest Independent Film Festival.

In 2003 Mr. Byer co-founded the ALS Film Fund with his sister in an effort to create artwork that encouraged positive change for ALS sufferers around the world.

Mr. Byer graduated from Evanston Township High School and studied journalism at Indiana University. He also attended the University of Paris, where he studied film theory and made short 8 mm films.

A job as a translator at the Cannes Film Festival in France led him to Hollywood, where he worked for a producer of B-movies, his sister said. He had a string of theater and movie industry jobs in Los Angeles, where he also worked as a door-to-door meat salesman.

He also worked frequently in Chicago, where he wrote and acted in productions at notable venues such as the Steppenwolf Theatre, Organic Theater, Trap Door Theatre and the European Repertory Company.

Dado, a Chicago actress and director, said Mr. Byer directed his own first play, a dark comedy called "Take it Deep." It is a semi-autobiographical story about a door-to-door meat salesman in L.A.

"Ben did have that hard-core work ethic," Dado said. "He'd say, 'We're going to do a play, but we have no money, we're in a small theater with no bathrooms or air conditioning, but we're going to figure it out.' And you know what? We did."

Survivors also include his wife, Josephine Christopher; a son John Anthony; his parents, Stephen and Barbara; two brothers, Matthew and Joshua; and a sister, Sarah.

Services have been held.