WOODSTOCK - During the three-and-a-half months it took to film "Groundhog Day" in Woodstock, then-Mayor Jim Shoemaker found a friend in director Harold Ramis.
"He was like a brother," Shoemaker said. "I had lunch with him more than I had with my wife."
Ramis died early Monday morning of complications from an autoimmune inflammatory disease. He was 69.
Shoemaker interacted with Ramis on a daily basis when the movie was being made in the early 1990s. The two would often chat outside Shoemaker's Woodstock Square real estate office, which was also used during a scene in the film, he said.
"He always had time to talk to you," Shoemaker said. "He worked very well with the city. He was very professional. Very polite. If he wanted to do something, he would ask. He wouldn't just tell you what he wanted to do."
When scouting a location for a film, someone mentioned the possibility of using Woodstock to Ramis. When he drove into town he fell in love with the area, Shoemaker recalled.
"When he approached the square, he said to whoever he was with, 'This is the place,' " Shoemaker said.
Ramis wrote a letter to the people of Woodstock after filming wrapped up and thanked them for their generosity.
"Without the tremendous amount of cooperation and genuine neighborliness exhibited by you and others like you, this film could not have been made," the letter read. "It is not often than an entire community takes us into both their homes and their hearts.
"I hope that when you see the movie, you will enjoy seeing Woodstock on film and delight in the knowledge that people all over the world will get to enjoy your hometown as well. We certainly have enjoyed it and we feel very privileged to haven been able to share it with you."
Ramis is best known for his roles in comedies such as "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes." Along with directing "Groundhog Day," he also directed "Caddyshack" and co-wrote "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Meatballs.
More recently, he directed "Analyze This," a movie starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro.
Ramis' family was at his side when he died.
Shoemaker said he and Ramis kept in touch in the years since the film, and Ramis even made it back to Woodstock on several occasions for the Groundhog Day celebration.
"People have come to Woodstock from all over the world (because of 'Groundhog Day')," he said. "They want to see where the movie was made. They want to look at the plaque in the street where [Bill Murray] stepped in the water. It has helped the town for the last 20 years. It's a sad day."
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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