It’s pretty telling that this is the second article I’ve done this month about Star Wars but, who can blame me? With The Last Jedi grossing over $600 million since its December 15th release, it’s become an unavoidable topic on the internet. The movie has spawned numerous memes, theories, and debates all over the worldwide web, showing just how powerful of a force fandom can be. This is the tale of a Star Wars mega fan and the people who fought to fulfill his dying wish.
Our story starts, not in a galaxy far far away but in Bedford, New Hampshire. Air Force veteran Ron Villemaire was in dire straits. Having battled colon cancer for months on end, his body had grown weak. Villemaire wanted to see The Last Jedi, he wanted to see it more than anything. Yet he feared he was too sick to make it to the theater within his quickly-diminishing lifespan.
Villemaire had been a fan of the franchise, ever since A New Hope‘s release in 1977. He’s seen every movie since and even read through hundreds of books from within the extended universe, all with his daughter, Elizabeth Ngo, by his side.
Ngo knew that she couldn’t just let her 69-year-old dad lay in a hospital bed, not knowing when he might pass, and the new Star Wars movie so close to opening, so she bought two tickets in advance of the opening, and fought for her dad to be able to go.
“I’d do anything to be able to see that movie, anything,” Villemaire told WMUR 9, “Nothing would make me happier. That would be something to take with me.”
Ngo started a Twitter campaign called #RonsLastJedi and tweeted out to powerful forces like Ellen Degeneres and Disney. The campaign was a big success, with people from all over rallying behind the cause.
— Haleigh (@halesjade) December 11, 2017
Someone out there has to be able to grant this man his dying wish???
All Ron Villemaire wants, is to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
This man is battling colon cancer with only weeks to live, there has to be a way to give him this joy.#RonsLastJedi
— Julie Robbs (@mijoluma) December 11, 2017
— James Ross (@HoosierNation5) December 11, 2017
On December 16th 2017, Villemaire came face-to-face with one of the deadliest characters in the Star Wars universe. Darth Vader had shown up to his bedside. He was there to send a message to the veteran, a decidedly non-evil message:
“You have been summoned by The Emperor. In recognition of your service, we want to thank you personally. Your shuttle will be here momentarily. You sir are awesome.”
Villemaire was soon whisked away in an ambulance by a group of local firefighters. They took him to O’Neill Theaters in Epping, where he was greeted by members of the 501st New England Garrison, a local group of fellow Star Wars super fans. Many of the theater occupants were in-costume and Villemaire got to meet many of the series’s memorable characters.
Perhaps the most memorable interaction, though, came from a U.S. Air Force representative who thanked Villemaire for his service. It didn’t take long before Villemaire felt like laying down again. Fortunately, there was a hospital bed waiting for him near the back of the theater. Then it was time to begin The Last Jedi.
Ngo was overwhelmed by how many people had shown up just to help her father and Villamaire loved every minute of it. He gave a review from inside the theater calling it his “favorite movie so far”. He sent his regards to everyone in the New England Garrison, not just for taking him to see the movie but for being so hospitable and kind.
“I hope God will bless each and every one of them just the way I feel blessed right now,” he told WMUR-TV. “…It’s just unbelievable all these people are here… thank God for Star Wars fans!”