As you have probably heard, actor Peter Mayhew passed away on April 30, 2019. If you follow Disney Over 50 on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and that his passing has hit me kind of hard.
I never met Peter Mayhew. I saw him several times at Star Wars Weekends, and also at Star Wars Celebration when it was in Orlando. I loved to hear his memories, the man behind Chewbacca had a real love for the happiness that he had brought to others. There was always so much joy in his voice when he would talk about Star Wars.
The closest that I ever came to meeting Peter Mayhew was during Star Wars Weekends, but it wasn’t at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. My family and I were at Disney’s BoardWalk. It was when the ice cream and candy shop Seashore Sweets was still there. I glanced over in the direction of the shop, and Peter Mayhew was seated outside at a table, enjoying the weather and some ice cream. More than anything I wanted to go over and ask for a picture, but something told me not to. I know that he would have happily taken the picture with me, but I decided to let the man have some down time and just enjoy his ice cream. I was reminded that he was a human being first and an actor second, and that everyone needs a little bit of time to themselves.
The past couple of months I had heard that Peter Mayhew’s health was declining. He still took the time to head to Chicago for one last Star Wars Celebration, he didn’t want to disappoint the fans. No one would have blamed him if he cancelled, but he still went. I’m sure that the people who were able to meet him there will now cherish those memories.
When I heard that Peter Mayhew had died, ironically I was at Disney’s BoardWalk. (Anyone who knows me won’t think it’s all that ironic.) I immediately thought back to that moment when we had seen him there. I knew that we had made the right call by leaving him alone. Yes, I could have had that picture, but then it would have been about me. By leaving him alone, I was allowing it to be about him for a little while.
To wrap this up, I’d just like to say thank you, Peter Mayhew. Your performance has brought me joy for most of my life, and I will miss hearing you share your memories. Rest in peace.