It’s always tough saying goodbye to your heroes. And this week, an entire generation of geeks and nerds had to say goodbye to one of their greatest. As was reported by the Chicago Tribune on Monday, Harold Ramis died while surrounded by his family. I take heart in knowing that his passing was peaceful and in the presence of those who loved him most. But, it still hurts to know that the man who gave us “Stripes”, “Groundhog Day” and “Ghostbusters” - just to name a few - is no longer with us.
In my youth, I found myself gravitating to the brand of humor that Ramis infused in his screenplays. Films like “Stripes” with its wry and snarky look at military culture, or “Meatballs” with its playful commentary on class warfare, helped inform my own developing sense of humor. And when "Ghostbusters" came along and showed me that nerdy guys could not only be heroes, but also friggin’ cool, well that sealed it for me.
I even found myself running into Mr. Ramis at the Barnes & Noble in Old Orchard many years ago. He was with a young boy who I presumed was his son or nephew, and the boy was looking for a book in the science-fiction/fantasy section. Of course he'd be encouraging a child to read sci-fi, I thought to myself. This fit perfectly with my image of the person I'd always imagined Harold Ramis to be. It also helped me accept the bookish kid that I was, and the nerdy things that I loved, all the more.
But I’m not the only one who had their life influenced by Harold Ramis and his films. I put the word out on social media and asked fellow geeks to share how they felt about Mr. Ramis and his work. Here are a few of the responses I got:
@ElliottSerrano Ghostbusters is the reason I ever wanted to be funny, and Ramis's work has shaped me ever since I was nine. I'm heartbroken.— Jamie Frevele (@jamiefrevele) February 24, 2014
"Ramis and his endless body of work were a massive influence on my life as a child, and even further into adulthood. He crafted films that I'll always carry with me, and working with the Alamo Drafhouse I even got to present screenings of a few of the many films he was involved in, including Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters, which I will always remember as a true honor. I'll never forget the impact he's had on me, and his body of work speaks for itself really." - Andrew Williams
@ElliottSerrano …he offered genuine suggestions to be successful, and seemed to enjoy our show. Thanked us for it and hung out for photos.— John Morrison (@localcelebrity) February 24, 2014
@ElliottSerrano our closing scene included a Ghostbusters reference too which we were nervous about doing in front of him. He cracked up.— John Morrison (@localcelebrity) February 24, 2014
“The way he told stories in his movies was incredible. He had the perfect combination of love, hate, joy, sadness in a single movie. That's what life is all about, a combination of all those each and every day.” – Ted Gruber, MMADisputed
“Hard to sum it up really. I grew up on Ghostbusters, to the point where I absolutely cannot remember a time I wanted to be one. As a kid, Egon was my absolute favorite. I had the best day at Universal Studios Florida back in 1990 when I got to meet Egon. Harold was such a gifted writer & actor, and will be sorely missed. I had coworkers checking up on me today, knowing I would be devastated.” - Mary Jo Chrabasz, Ghostbusters Chicago Division
“Between Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Stripes, and Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis is probably more responsible for shaping my sense of humor than just about anyone. RIP Egon, I hope John Candy was at the pearly gates waiting for you.” – Julie DiCaro, A League of Her Own
In the days ahead, many tributes will be made to Harold Ramis. A lot of words will be written by comedians, filmmakers, actors, critics, film fans and anyone who appreciated Ramis and his work.
With that a lot of tears are going to be shed. A lot of fond memories will be shared. And eventually those memories will bring smiles. And laughter.
Let us all remember that. The smiles Harold Ramis worked to bring into our lives.
Lets remember that he helped us laugh at the silly things we use to separate ourselves from each other. And reminded us that life is something to be celebrated; that love and friendship are the greatest gifts we could ever have.
Oh yeah, and that he made smart, nerdy guys look cool. I'm never going to forget that part.
I'll see you on the other side, Egon.