The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 16, 2013

Carol Stark: True Jedi working good in dying man’s galaxy

The force is strong. If you aren’t a Star Wars aficionado, that phrase might not mean much to you, but Luke Skywalker fan or not, the story I’d like to tell you today will give you a lift — no light saber required.

Globe photographer T. Rob Brown is a humble guy and a true Jedi with the camera. I probably would never have known about a recent personal effort, except I happen to be Facebook friends with him.

 To say T. Rob knows a lot about Star Wars is an understatement.

To say T. Rob knows everything about Star Wars movies, action figures and books is more accurate.

In November, Andra Stefanoni, one of our reporters, wrote a touching profile story on Todd Humbard, a 42-year-old who doesn’t have much time left to live.

The Carterville man has terminal brain cancer, and life is a day-by-day proposition. Our story on Nov. 26 featured the good deeds of Avalon Hospice, the Freeman Cancer Institute, the Dream Foundation and the staff at Vintage Stock in Joplin.

Together, they made a small dream come true for Humbard. They brought DVDs and Star Wars collectibles to Humbard’s home, allowing him to take a shopping trip right there in his living room.

T. Rob was on vacation when this story ran, but our other photographer, Roger Nomer, provided T. Rob with Todd’s phone number figuring the two shared a common bond.

T. Rob and Todd talked nearly an hour on the phone.

“We talked about all the different Star Wars movies and what we liked and didn’t like. It’s just something that real Star War fans share when they get together.”

T. Rob, also 42, has been a collector since 1977, when at age 6, his parents took him to see the first Star Wars movie.

“When Darth Vader stepped onto the rebel ship, I was captivated. That’s when it all started for me,” T. Rob told me.

Our photographer, by the way, not only collects Star Wars figures, but he writes about them as well as a freelancer for Wizards of the Coast, a division of Hasbro.

T. Rob said as they talked, Todd mentioned a particular figure that he didn’t have and had been unable to find.

Then T. Rob started talking in a language I’m sure only is understood by other Star Wars fans. What I got out of it was that Todd was interested in an action figure called BoShek, a minor character in the 1977 movie. Todd described him as “Elvis in a spacesuit.”

“I had never seen it, although I knew it existed. That particular figure came out in 2002, I believe,” T. Robb explained to me.

I had seen T. Rob’s efforts out there on Facebook when he put out the call to anyone who might know where he could buy one — quickly.

A local group of collectors started combing stores, including both the Vintage Stock stores. Also involved was another Globe employee, Kevin McClintock, the editor of J Magazine.

Finally, those involved with T. Rob in the search ordered BoShek, still in his original packaging, on Amazon.com.

“It wasn’t all that pricey, just hard to find,” said T. Rob.

But they didn’t stop with just one action figure. They started pitching in with their own prized possessions including autographed books and even a Christmas Yoda.

“I’m not exactly the best guy with the gift wrapping, and a woman who heard about what we were doing offered to wrap it all up so it would look really nice. By the time we were done, we had a nice-sized box to give to him,” T. Rob said.

Todd, while weak, was visibly moved, T. Rob said, when he pulled BoShek out of the box.

“He told me he thought I would never find it. He seemed pretty happy.”

 T. Rob hopes to have a few more visits with Todd during the short time the cancer patient is expected to live.

It will be time well spent for both of them.

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com.

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