It’s true that Felina Brown has a bantha in her upstairs office, full-size cutouts of Darth Vader and General Grievous in her living room and a treasured two-LP set of the original John Williams soundtrack from the first movie (or the fourth, depending on how you view the universe).
Yes, she has been known on occasion to don Princess Leia garb — either the traditional flowing Alderaan gown or the more casual Endor combat poncho. She met her husband, Aaron, at the opening of the fifth film (or the second, depending …), and their adorable 5-year-old son is named Harrison.
But all this is merely the external evidence of her passion. The main reason this 44-year-old San Ramon resident and Fremont schoolteacher was chosen winner of Bay Area News Group’s ultimate “Star Wars” fan contest is her eternal internal devotion, her deep commitment to the lore, the adventure and the fundamental soul of the series.
In fact, “Star Wars” runs through every midichlorian in her luminous being.
“My youth was endlessly playing the soundtrack, watching ‘Star Wars’ through a hand-cranked Movie Viewer by Kenner, and enjoying a 12-inch Princess Leia figure — NOT Barbie,” she wrote in her sweet, 150-word entry that she reworked three dozen times before submitting it, signing off with, “I AM the ‘Star Wars’ fan you’ve been looking for.”
And now that she’s been declared that ultimate fan? Let’s just say, she has a good feeling about this.
“I am so excited!” she says, pulling a life-size R2-D2 into her living room for a photo-op. “He was my partner in crime the first time I dressed as Leia when I started teaching,” Brown says, patting the droid on the head. “He’s on rollers, so I rolled him around the school with me for the Halloween parade.”
It all started long, long ago in 1977, when Brown was a first-grader in Michigan, which is far, far away. The moment she saw the film, she was entranced — especially with the strong character of Leia.
“I loved how she stood up to Darth Vader, especially in that first scene,” she says. “My mom took me four times. In those days, there weren’t any movie rentals. When it was out of the theaters, it was gone. So for the fourth time, my mom pulled me out of school that day. It was a big deal.”
Her whole family was in on the love. They’d all quote lines from the movie. They’d make caramel-center cookies they dubbed “Chewbacca Chewies.” Even during regular daily activities, they’d play the soundtrack records in the background.
For the 21 years Brown has been teaching elementary school, she’s been incorporating “Star Wars” into the classroom. “I’ll play the music in the background during work times,” she says. “I have always used a poster to promote reading. It has Jabba the Hutt on it with the words ‘Reading Is For Everyone!’ Also, students know to turn in special projects in my stormtrooper inbox, and homework is turned in to Yoda.”
The Force surely was dominating her destiny when she met Aaron in 2002 as they both waited in line for “Attack of the Clones” at Century 22 in San Jose (it was Aaron’s second time seeing the movie that day).
“Ten years to the day later, I proposed to her at that very spot,” Aaron says. They wed a year later, on May the Fourth in Sanborn Park in Saratoga “because it looked a lot like Endor,” Felina says. She walked down the aisle to the theme music for Yoda, they had a Han and Leia (in Bespin attire) cake topper, and they even sent an invitation to George Lucas. “He didn’t take us up on it, though.”
Felina Brown even loves the oft-maligned Episodes I through III.
“I consider myself a ‘Star Wars’ fan, not a ‘Star Wars’ critic. I just loved that it kept the ‘Star Wars’ world going.”
And, of course, the Brown family will see “The Force Awakens” next month, but they’re biding their time and have no plans to camp out on the sidewalk. “We were not one of the ones who crashed the Fandango website.”
In the meantime, Felina Brown is savoring her new status as the ultimate fan.
“I love the title!” she squeals.
Great, Felina — but as Han would say, “Don’t get cocky.”
Follow Angela Hill at Twitter.com/GiveEmHill.