Ralph McQuarrie. The name is as synonymous with Star Wars as George Lucas is. Many people consider Mr. McQuarrie to be one-third of the Star Wars “Holy Trinity” with Lucas and John Williams, and that is a line of thinking that I wholeheartedly agree with 110%. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. McQuarrie before he became one with the Force on March 3rd, yet his work has had a profound impact on both my childhood and adult life. Not in the sense of one artist inspiring greatness in another artist, or influencing somebody to pick up a paintbrush and start bringing their own universe to life on paper. No, Mr. McQuarrie has affected me in a very basic yet extremely powerful manner.
You see, back in January of 1989, I lost both of my parents in a very disturbing & frightening way. My mother was a big Star Wars fan (Bib Fortuna was her favorite character) and she loved sitting on the living room floor with my younger brother and I to watch Star Wars whenever it was on a channel such as HBO or Showtime. She used to work at JC Penney’s back when most stores had a 3rd floor, on which they sold gym equipment, power tools…and toys. Every week she would head up to that 3rd floor and check out the Star Wars aisles to see what she could pick up for my brother and I. It was like Christmas 52 times a year. Together we amassed a fairly large Kenner collection, and I’ll never forget the joy we experienced as we tore open a new Kenner figure or assembled a new vehicle or playset.
As I grew older, I used the memories of Star Wars and my mother to help me grieve and eventually put that terrible time in my life behind me. And it’s those fond memories of her that helped propel my love for Star Wars to new heights as an adult. Star Wars provided me with an outlet that I could share with my mother and remember her by, and Mr. McQuarrie’s work in designing that galaxy “far, far away” obviously was paramount in creating that outlet. Without Mr. McQuarrie’s work, Star Wars might have been vastly different from what we’ve all come to know & love…or possibly not have been at all. Who knows what direction Lucas would have taken his vision without Mr. McQuarrie. Who knows if Star Wars would have experienced the immense success it did (and continues to do so).
But one thing is abundantly clear – Mr. McQuarrie’s work helped develop a bond between a mother and her son that cannot be measured in box office ticket receipts or product sales figures. I’m sure there are countless other fans out there who’s lives have been affected by Star Wars in a similar manner as I have – maybe not as extreme, maybe moreso. So on behalf of all those fans who have used Star Wars to help cope with a serious issue in their lives, thank you Mr. McQuarrie for lending your talents to the franchise that we hold so near & dear to our hearts. You will be missed…