by OC

Kenny Baker, the star who gave life to R2-D2 with his 3ft 8in tall physique in the Star Wars films, has died at age 81. 

The British actor rose to fame in 1977 when he first played the droid's character. He went on to become the robot's heart and soul as he played R2-D2 again in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and three more Star Wars prequels between 1999 and 2005. He also starred in Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, and The Elephant Man. 

His niece, Abigail Shield explained how his death was expected following her uncle's long illness from a lung condition, but said it was sad nonetheless. She further revealed that back when he was a child, he was told that the chances were that he wouldn't survive beyond puberty. Being such a little person during those times meant a low life expectancy. He proved to be different. Baker did extremely well in his life and lived a fulfilled one, bringing happiness to people all over the world. Shield's brother and Baker's nephew, Andrew Myerscough, cared for him and says that his uncle was in good spirits up until his final moments. 

The cast of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” at the UK premiere.

Baker grew up in Birmingham together with Shield's father, Ian. Abigail commemorated Eileen, her aunt whom Baker met after an appearance on the TV chat show Michael Parkinson. She wrote in telling him that she was a little person too and expressed her intention to meet him. They got married soon after. Eileen passed away 20 years ago from epilepsy. 

Johnny Mans, Baker's agent, has known the actor since the 1960s. He says Kenny was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, a truly great friend who would be terribly missed by his familyl. 

Ewan McGregor, Star Wars' Obi Wan Kenobi, tweeted that he was so sorry to hear the news of his death and that it was lovely working with him. 

Mark Hamill, the original Star Wars Trilogy's Luke Skywalker paid tribute and wrote his goodbye to a lifelong loyal friend on Twitter. 

20th Century Fox, the film corporation behind Star Wars, posted a photograph featuring C3PO right next to Baker's droid character. They wrote, "Rest in peace" to R2-D2's heart and soul - Kenny Baker.