Comedy legend Harold Ramis died early Monday (Feb. 24), the Chicago Tribune reported. He was 69.
The Chicago Sun-Times confirmed the news.
Ramis was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis told the Chicago Tribune. Mann Ramis added that his health struggles began in May 2010, with an infection that led to complications related to the autoimmune disease. According to Laurel Ward, Vice President of Development at Ramis’ Ocean Pictures production company, Ramis suffered a relapse of the vasculitis in late 2011.
Ramis was best known for directing and writing "Caddyshack," "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze That." He also played the role of Egon Spengler in "Ghostbusters," which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd.
He was born and raised in Chicago, but moved to Los Angeles once his career took off.
Perhaps his greatest legacy is his influence on generations of comedians, actors and directors due to his ability to infuse comedy with a broader, sometimes spiritual message, said Andrew Alexander, president and CEO of The Second City. Ramis got his start with the Chicago-based improvisational comedy theater, along with future co-stars Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Murray.
"There was always a nuanced meaning to his pictures," Alexander said, including an "almost Buddhist philosophy to 'Groundhog Day'" — a movie Ramis co-wrote and directed that tells the story of a man who re-lives the same day over and over as he examines his life.
"He was a generous, nurturing, humble guy," Alexander added.
Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend ... May he now get the answers he was always seeking."
Ramis joined The Second City in 1969, and in 1976 became head writer for the Canadian-based comedy show Second City Television, or SCTV.
He soon moved on to bigger projects — the legendary 1978 blockbuster film "National Lampoon's Animal House," which starred fellow Second City alum John Belushi.
With Murray as the comic lead, the Second City alums paired up for numerous projects: Ramis co-wrote 1979's "Meatballs" and co-wrote and directed 1980's "Caddyshack."
But the most well-known of their collaborations was "Ghostbusters," which also features Aykroyd. Ramis helped write the 1984 movie, in which he stars as Egon Spengler, the brainy, commonsense member of a group of parapsychologists who try to catch ghosts.
"The best comedy touches something that's timeless and universal in people," Ramis told The Associated Press in a 2009 story about the 50th anniversary of Second City. "When you hit it right, those things last."
More recently, he directed "Analyze This," starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro.
Ramis was born Nov. 21, 1944 in Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter Violet; and two grandchildren.
Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, Jake Coyle in New York and Steve Loeper in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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