By Patricia Reaney
REUTERS - Comedy actor and director Harold Ramis, best known for films such as "Ghostbusters," "Groundhog Day" and "Caddyshack," died at his home in Chicago at the age of 69 of complications from a rare vascular disease, his agent said on Monday.
Ramis, who had suffered from the rare illness since 2010, passed away peacefully on Monday morning, surrounded by family members.
"I'm sad to say the news is true. He passed away from complications related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis," said Chris Day, a spokesman for the United Talent Agency in Los Angeles.
"His creativity, compassion, intelligence, humor and spirit will be missed by all who knew and loved him," his family said in a statement.
Friends, colleagues and co-stars of Ramis expressed their grief as news spread about his death.
"Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis," tweeted actor Dan Aykroyd, who co-starred with Ramis in the 1984 film "Ghostbusters."
Ramis played Dr. Egon Spengler in the Ivan Reitman cult comedy "Ghostbusters," which also starred actor Bill Murray.
"Harold Ramis and I together did 'The National Lampoon Show' off-Broadway, 'Meatballs,' 'Stripes,' 'Caddyshack,' 'Ghostbusters' and 'Groundhog Day.' He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him," Murray said in a statement.
Director and actor Jon Favreau said Ramis would be missed.
"No, no, not Harold Ramis," he tweeted. "He was the real deal. Growing up, his work changed my life."
Actor Billy Crystal, who was directed by Ramis in the film "Analyze This," described him as a brilliant and funny actor and director.
"Big loss to us all," he tweeted.
A celebrated director, writer, actor and producer, Ramis grew up in Chicago and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. He worked as an associate editor at Playboy Magazine before he got his start in comedy in 1969 with the city's famous Second City improvisational theater group.
He returned to Chicago in 1996 after 20 years in Los Angeles, and got his big break when he co-wrote the comedy hit, "National Lampoon's Animal House" in 1978.
Known for his dry wit, Ramis worked on other comedy scripts before making his directorial debut in 1980 with "Caddyshack," followed three years later by "National Lampoon's Vacation."
In 1993, he co-wrote, produced and directed "Groundhog Day," about a weatherman, played by Bill Murray, who relives the same day over and over again.
Other films he co-wrote and directed include "Analyze This" in 1999, a comedy about a psychiatrist whose main patient is an insecure mobster. Starring Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, it was followed two years later by a sequel, "Analyze That."
Ramis received The American Comedy Award, the British Comedy Awards and a BAFTA award for screenwriting.
He is survived by his wife, Erica Mann Ramis, his sons Julian and Daniel, a daughter Violet and two grandchildren.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney in New York; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)