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Vet, athlete, salesman was an extra in ‘Ferris Bueller’ thanks to son-in-law, director John Hughes

That’s Henry “Hank” Ludwig sitting behind star Matthew Broderick between his own real-life grandsons scene filmed Wrigley Field “Ferris Bueller’s

That’s Henry “Hank” Ludwig sitting behind star Matthew Broderick and between his own real-life grandsons in the scene filmed at Wrigley Field in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

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Updated: July 6, 2013 6:15AM

There’s a scene at Wrigley Field in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where the wind stirs Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane’s hair, and the light glows on Ferris and his buddy Cameron.

It’s a perfect spring day in Chicago. For Henry “Hank” Ludwig, it might have been the most perfect day of all.

As an extra in the 1986 film, the lifelong Cubs fan got to enjoy the moviemaking from the best seat in the house — right behind stars Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara and Alan Ruck.

On top of that, the movie was being directed by his son-in-law, John Hughes, the filmmaker behind a string of hits.

And Mr. Ludwig’s adored grandsons, James and John, were the little extras who bookended him in the scene.

He never could have expected any of this back when his daughter, Nancy, 16 at the time, brought home a “a long-haired hippie” from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook: a 17-year-old Hughes.

“I’ll never forget, my dad said to John, ‘What are you going to do for the rest of your life?’ “ Nancy Hughes recalled. “And John said, ‘I want to be a poet.’ ‘‘

She was so worried about her father’s reaction, she thought she might be sick. But Mr. Ludwig saw in the young Hughes a work ethic he admired. Nancy and John married when she was 19 and he was 20.

She remembers her father’s attitude toward his new son-in-law as: “Just as long as you take care of my daughter.”

The late John Hughes went on to become one of the most popular writer-directors of all time. “My dad had total respect for him,” Nancy Hughes said.

Mr. Ludwig also appeared as an extra in “She’s Having a Baby.” And he was “thrilled” each time he met the stars of his son-in-law’s films, she said, including frequent Hughes collaborator John Candy (“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”); Walter Matthau (“Dennis the Menace”), and Maureen O’Hara and Anthony Quinn (“Only the Lonely”).

Mr. Ludwig, 90, died May 25 at Westmoreland Nursing Center in Lake Forest.

He had struggled with dementia but was always proud to show relatives off to his caregivers. Even when he couldn’t quite remember their names or relationships, he would tell them, “These are my people.”

He grew up on the North Side, the son of a Swedish-American mother and German-American father. He ice-skated at Winnemac Park; attended Trumbull grade school at Foster and Ashland and made lifelong friendships at Amundsen High School, where he was a star swimmer and basketball player and part of a group of about 40 friends who loved pranks and wordplay. They called themselves the Gas House Goosers. He was the last of the group still living.

He won a basketball scholarship to Michigan State University, but just days before heading to college, he received his World War II draft notice, according to his grandson, John Hughes III. Mr. Ludwig trained in Seattle to be a naval pilot, but a plane crash left him with a lifelong back problem, relatives said.

After the war, he came home and fell in love just about as soon as he laid eyes on Naomi Fett at a tavern at Foster and Damen called the Cher-Ami. She still remembers what she thought when she saw him: “He’s for me.”

They married in 1947 and moved to Northbrook, where they raised two daughters, Nancy and Janice.

He worked as a salesman for U.S. Gypsum and Material Service Corp.

Each summer, he liked to take his daughters to Hiller’s Pine Haven in St. Germain, Wis., for a log-cabin-and-lake vacation.

Mr. Ludwig had always hoped to have a boy. So, jokingly, he called Nancy “Fred,’’ and Janice was “Phillip.” And when Nancy gave birth to John and James, the proud grandfather couldn’t contain himself. He bought them footballs and basketballs, baseballs, bats and mitts.

Hughes went to California to edit “The Breakfast Club,” and, with other movie projects, his and his young family’s time there stretched to four years. But never fans of the Hollywood hustle, John and Nancy Hughes returned to settle in Lake Forest, and Mr. Ludwig was thrilled to have his grandchildren nearby, taking them to Bears, Blackhawks and Cubs games.

The day after he filmed his “Ferris Bueller” scene at the Cubs game, Mr. Ludwig started having chest pain while driving. He kept driving — 20 miles, by himself — to Glenbrook Hospital and had a quadruple-bypass. Post-heart attack, when a doctor told him he could have a couple of glasses of wine a day, “My dad said, ‘I spill more than that,’ ” Nancy Hughes said. He never had another drink.

He treated people with grace and dignity, whether it was the mayor or a movie star or a rock star who had a song in one of his son-in-law’s movies.

“At a premiere for ‘Pretty in Pink,’ I was very excited to introduce my dad to Richard Butler, who was from the Psychedelic Furs” — they did the title song — “and my dad extended his hand like it was a great honor,” Nancy Hughes said.

Mr. Ludwig’s grandson John remembers him as “just a cool guy. I loved him for how accepting he was of my father, and my brother and I,” both artists involved in music and publishing.

As for his own taste in music, Mr. Ludwig loved Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.” And even toward the end of his life, his eyes would fill up when he heard the Navy’s “Anchors Aweigh” or his and his wife’s song — “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller.

Services were held last week. Mr. Ludwig’s daughter, Janice, died before him. In addition to his wife, daughter and grandsons, he is also survived by four great-grandchildren. “All the great-grandkids drew pictures, and we had them on the window of his room,” Nancy Hughes said. “Before they closed the coffin, they laid them across him.”

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