(Chicago, IL)  --  The man who gave "Groundhog Day" new meaning on the big screen has died.  Writer, director and actor Harold Ramis passed away early Monday at the age of 69.  Ramis' career was marked by a number of hit comedies that also helped launch the careers of actors John Belushi and Bill Murray.  In addition to "Groundhog Day," Ramis' left his fingerprints on cult classics such as "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Caddyshack."  

A graduate of Second City's groundbreaking TV series "Second City Television," for which he both wrote and performed, Ramis' wild comedies opened the doors for a future generation of comedic actors and filmmakers who carried on his tradition of over-the-top humor. "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane was among the first to react to news of Ramis' passing on Twitter.  He wrote, "Harold Ramis was a brilliant, shining example for every comedy writer hoping to achieve excellence the field.  He will be sorely missed." 

Ramis' wife tells "The Chicago Tribune," Harold had battled a condition known as autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, which affects the blood vessels. The Chicago native was surrounded by family when he passed away.  He was 69.