Like so many, I grew up a fan of the Original Trilogy.
Now, I don't dislike the Prequels, per se: I just see them as an entirely different animal, one that perhaps was never much intended for my complete digestion, and I leave the debate over their merits to those who wish to engage in such activity. As for those Originals, Chewbacca was never a favorite of mine: as the Trilogy wore on, it seemed as if the poor thing was reserved more for comic relief as opposed to a full-fledged character. My evidence? Well, George couldn't even see fit to give the Wookiee a medal in the formal ceremony at the end of A New Hope, so it was downhill from there for the one-time resident of Kashyyyk. (Don't even get me started on Return Of The Jedi's near-slapstick antics of the final assault ...) Sometimes characters deserve better than they get, and Chewbacca always seemed to be just outside of the central focus perhaps he deserved.
In any event, I've read countless times about how infectious Peter Mayhew's sense of fun and appreciation was at conventions. I've been told he always had a kind word for anyone he encountered. Though I've never taken in a pure Star Wars con, I do follow the trades and fan feedback; and it looks as though he's always been a favorite amongst those in attendance. For one who played so winningly such a big creature on the silver screen, I find it utterly fascinating that he was as big-hearted behind-the-scenes when the cameras weren't really capturing anything. In that regard, all I can say is that, yes, maybe even the actor deserved more credit than he ever got.
While memories fade, film is permanent, and Mayhew's performances will continue to delight and inspire fans young and old in the years ahead. The Force was strong with him, and I'm thankful to have enjoyed what he did in that galaxy far, far away. May he rest in peace.
As always, thanks for reading ... and May the Force be with you.