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Harold Ramis, whose irrepressible comic chops shone through as an actor ("Ghostbusters," "Stripes") and director ("Groundhog Day," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Caddyshack"), died at the age of 69 early Monday.
Ramis died from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, which is a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, according to his wife Erica Mann.
A Chicago native, Ramis moved back to his hometown with his family in 1996. "I feel like I represent the city in a certain way," he said a few years later.
In 2010 Ramis began having health problems following an infection that ultimately caused his rare condition.
A true comedy Renaissance man, Ramis was a towering influence in Hollywood with a streaks of hits that stretched from the 1978 classic "Animal House," which he wrote, to 1984's blockbuster "Ghostbusters," which he wrote and starred, up to the 1999 hit "Analyze This," which, like the 2002 followup "Analyze That," he wrote and directed.
"He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him," said Bill Murray in a statement. "Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis," his "Ghostbusters" co-star Dan Aykroyd wrote. "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman also aknowlaged the passing of "the most agile mind I’ve ever witnessed." And Billy Crystal, who starred in Ramis' "Analyze" movies, called him "A brilliant, funny, actor and director. A wonderful husband and dad. Big loss to us all."
Ramis's roots in humor date back to his college years at Washington University in St. Louis, when he wrote parodies for the stage. After graduating, he moved back to Chicago. And by the early '70s he was sharing the stage at Second City with John Belushi and other fellow collaborators, also launching skit comedy show "SCTV." In 1974, Ramis, Belushi, and Murray moved to New York with other performers from the famed Chicago comedy troupe to do "The National Lampoon Radio Hour."
Ramis's big-screen break came when he wrote the seminal 1978 frat-house comedy "National Lampoon's Animal House," starring Belushi. From there, Ramis penned 1979's "Meatballs," starring his other creative collaborator, Murray — their fruitful team-ups included "Caddyshack," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," and "Groundhog Day."
Ramis's signature style, mixing both ludicrous and insightful humor, has had a lasting influence. "Meet the Parents" director Jay Roach has cited Ramis's impact on him, as have Adam Sandler, and Peter and Bobby Farrelly ("Dumb and Dumber," "There's Something About Mary"), along with Judd Apatow, who cast Ramis in memorable roles in "Knocked Up" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." Apatow said in a statement on Monday, "Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director."
Ramis leaves behind his wife, Erica Mann, his daughter, Violet, his sons Julian and Daniel, and two grandchildren.