NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Actor Peter Mayhew, who made his home in Wise County in North Texas and was world famous for being the man in the Chewbacca suit in the “Star Wars” movies, has died at 74.

Family members tweeted on Mayhew’s Twitter account, “The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.”

The 7-foot-3 Mayhew played the shaggy, towering Chewbacca, sidekick to Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

He went on to appear in 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith” and shared the part in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” with actor Joonas Suotamo, who later took over the role.

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films,” the family statement said. “But, to him, the ‘Star Wars’ family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”

Mayhew developed lifelong friendships with the other “Star Wars” actors and spent three decades traveling the world to meet his fans, the statement says.

His family said he was active with various nonprofit groups and established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, which is devoted to alleviating disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll from traumatic events, its website says.

Peter Mayhew attends the premiere of Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at The Shrine Auditorium on December 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Born and raised in England, Mayhew had appeared in just one film and was working as a hospital orderly in London when George Lucas found him and cast him in 1977’s “Star Wars.”

He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.

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“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” HarrisonFord said in a statement Thursday. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him… My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend.”

Mayhew defined the incredibly well-known Wookiee and became a world-famous actor for most of his life without speaking a word or even making a sound — Chewbacca’s famous roar was the creation of sound designers.

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films,” the family statement said. “But, to him, the ‘Star Wars’ family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.”

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker alongside Mayhew, wrote on Twitter that he was “the gentlest of giants — A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile & a loyal friend who I loved dearly. I’m grateful for the memories we shared & I’m a better man for just having known him.”

Here is the family’s full statement on Mayhew’s life:

Peter was the man behind the mask of Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy, episode 3 of the prequels, and the New Trilogy. He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He also consulted on The Last Jedi in an attempt to teach his successor. He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame of the films from his knock kneed running, firing his bowcaster from the hip, his bright blue eyes, down to each subtle movement of his head and mouth. But, to him, the Star Wars family meant so much more to him than a role in a film.

The relationships that began then grew into the friends and family that he would love for decades to come. As the films released and became more well-known he had his eyes opened to the possibilities of what he could achieve with his role in the Star Wars universe. For more than 30 years Peter traveled all over the world spending time with his fans and friends. Peter developed lifelong friendships with the other cast members and his fans while on the convention circuit touching the lives of millions. As he realized over the years the impact he could have, he became heavily involved with the 501st legion, Wounded Warriors, Make-a-Wish, and other non-profit organizations.

To this end, he established the Peter Mayhew Foundation, supporting everything from individuals and families in crisis situations to food and supplies for children of Venezuela during their recent road to freedom. He not only provided funds but became personally involved with each individual, family and cause he supported.

As he grew older he continued to “soldier on” as he put it and was completely in his element around his fans and supporters. He grew great strength from the energy of his family, friends and the fans he knew and loved.

He is survived by his wife Angie and three children. His kindness, generosity and care will live on in the Peter Mayhew Foundation with Angie taking the helm as his voice.

There will be a memorial service for friends and family held on June 29th and in early December in Los Angeles there will be a memorial for fans set up with his family in attendance, personal effects, and collection at EmpireCon LA.

For additional information, information on the memorials or to offer condolences email rvan@ReelAppearances.com 

Rather than gifts and flowers the family asks that you consider donating to the foundation so that they can continue his efforts to help the community.

In May 2016, Candace Payne of North Texas created a wildly popular video of her hysterically laughing while wearing a toy Chewbacca mask gained millions views on Facebook soon after she posted it.

She posted it on Mayhew’s birthday and later got to meet him.

On Thursday night, she posted a tribute to him on her Facebook page.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)