John Hughes wrote and directed some of our favourite movies from that era: Ferris, Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty In Pink, Planes Trains and Automobiles. (See his full filmography here) Those films were not "important" in the Oscar sense, but man, they made an impact.
Example: I challenge you to hear the opening lines of Danke Schoen without seeing Ferris at the parade or TRY not to cheer when the good girl and the bad boy get together in Breakfast Club. Classic!
Fancy film theorists have since declared that John Hughes single-handedly changed the way adolescence was portrayed in cinema and birthed a new genre of film: the teen movie.
Anyway, all that film nerd stuff aside, what is really cool about John Hughes is this story. I discovered it a few minutes ago and am now foolishly choked up here at my computer because, wow. He was not only a penpal to a young girl (already awesome) but here's a guy who decided that the Hollywood life was not for him and, more importantly, not for his family. As a parent who works in the film industry (albeit the infinitely kinder, gentler version up here in Canada), I can't help but be moved. He continued to write a lot of great, mainly family friendly scripts but he stayed firmly out of the limelight. Cool.
Way to go John Hughes. Sorry you couldn't stick around longer.