American actor, director, and writer Harold Ramis died at 12:53 a.m. this morning from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.
Since 2010, the Chicago native had struggled with health issues, starting with an infection that led to complications related to the disease that took his life this morning. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ramis had to relearn to walk, but then suffered a relapse in late 2011.
Ramis began writing parodic plays in college at Washing University in St. Louis and after returning to Chicago, began studying and performing with "Second City," Chicago's renounced comedy improvisational troupe.
After leaving "Second City" (and being replaced by John Belushi), Ramis returned in 1972 and began working with Belushi and Bill Murray on the radio program The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which ran from November 1973 to December 1974. Later he was the head writer of Second City Television (SCTV), as well as a performer.
From there he continued to write, direct, and co-star and comedies such as National Lampoon's Animal House, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, As Good As It Gets, Analyze This, and Groundhog Day, which is considered his masterpiece.
Ramis moved his family from Los Angeles back to Chicago in in 1996.
"There's a pride in what I do that other people share because I'm local, which in L.A. is meaningless; no one's local," Ramis said in 1999. "It's a good thing. I feel like I represent the city in a certain way."
Ramis was, and will continue to be, the comic inspiration for many actors and filmmakers.
Judd Apatow, of The 40-Year Old Virgin fame, said, “When I was 15, I interviewed Harold for my high school radio station, and he was the person that I wanted to be when I was growing up. His work is the reason why so many of us got into comedy. We grew up on 'Second City TV' and 'Ghostbusters,' 'Vacation,' 'Animal House,' 'Stripes,' 'Meatballs'; he literally made every single one of our favorite movies."
"He just did it for me," said Laurel Ward, vice president of development for Ramis' production company. "He loved teaching people. He loved helping people. He loved seeing people succeed."
Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Mann Ramis, and three children, the oldest, Violet, from his first wife, Anne. Bill Murray is the godfather of Violet Ramis.
Image via Wikimedia Commons