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John Hughes' low-profile funeral is in keeping with his life

Matthew Broderick, Ben Stein and Vince Vaughn are among the few familiar faces at filmmaker's service.

August 12, 2009|Mark Caro

CHICAGO — The setting could have been lifted from one of his movies: a bright summer day amid beautiful houses and expansive lawns on Chicago's North Shore. But in place of boisterous laughter and iconoclastic spirit was a mood quiet and somber as family, friends and colleagues such as Matthew Broderick, Ben Stein and Vince Vaughn gathered in a Lake Forest funeral home Tuesday to remember filmmaker John Hughes.

Hughes, who directed such enduring '80s teen comedies as "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and oversaw the 1990 box-office smash "Home Alone" while living on the North Shore, died Thursday of a heart attack in Manhattan at 59. He was remembered at an invitation-only service at Wenban Funeral Home, where security personnel checked off mourners' names at the door.

Mourners arrived for the noon funeral, their cars quickly filling the small parking lot (a van shuttled the rest from a nearby area). They ranged from infant to elderly, and aside from the rare familiar face, this was a crowd whom Hughes, not the world, knew -- as befitting an incredibly successful filmmaker who lived an increasingly low-profile life outside Chicago rather than in the Hollywood spotlight.

A local TV crew kept its distance across the street. Otherwise, passersby had no indication that such a prominent figure was being memorialized on this sunny suburban corner.

The mourners emerged after more than two hours, many wiping away tears and relating that there was much visiting and storytelling inside. Stein, the commentator famous for playing Ferris Bueller's monotonous economics teacher, called the service "very touching, a lot of crying."

"We'll never see his like again," said Stein, a close friend of Hughes and one of the service's speakers. "He was the Wordsworth of the suburban America postwar generation. He was a great, great, great genius and as much of a friend and a great family man as he was a poet."

Stein and the other mourners returned to their cars for a procession past those houses and lawns to a nearby Lake Forest cemetery, where Hughes was laid to rest.

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mcaro@tribune.com

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