(From 5 years ago: November 19, 2013)
Philanthropist Diane Disney Miller, who was the daughter of Walt Disney, died Tuesday at her home in Napa, Calif. She suffered a fall in September 2013 from which she never recovered.
Disney Miller, the eldest and only biological daughter of Lillian and Walt Disney, helped shepherd the development of Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2004. When Gehry tried to walk off the project in 1997, Disney Miller persuaded him to stay, saying that the remaining funds from her mother’s gift could not be used unless he remained as architect.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Diane Disney Miller and our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time,” said Disney CEO Robert Iger. “As the beloved daughter of Walt Disney and one of his inspirations for creating Disneyland, she holds a special place in the history of the Walt Disney Company and in the hearts of fans everywhere. She will be remembered for her grace and generosity and tireless work to preserve her father’s legacy, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
“Mickey Mouse has a daughter,” announced the L.A. Times when she was born. Walt Disney was said to have been inspired to create Disneyland by taking Diane to the Griffith Park merry-go-round as a child.
At age 20, Diane Disney was introduced to USC student Ron Miller; they married in 1954, and he survives her. Walt Disney helped Miller get jobs on various Disney shows, and by 1978 he was president and then CEO of Walt Disney Productions until being ousted in 1984. Since 1981, the Miller family has operated Napa’s Silverado Vineyards Winery.
After Disney Hall was completed, she moved on to nurturing her father’s legacy through the creation of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in San Francisco in 2009.
Her adopted sister, Sharon Mae Disney, died in 1993. In addition to her husband, she is survived by seven children.
Living The Dream – A Cast Member’s Magical Moment with Diane Disney Miller
I feel compelled to write because of the recent passing of Diane Disney Miller. Now I know every blog, instagram, and twitter has paid their tribute—but I feel that I need to share my brief interaction with her.
This Disney blog has touched many lives and hopefully caused many to pursue their dreams. I never thought this blog would become what it is today, nor did I ever think that I was that great of a writer. However, it was Diane who encouraged me to follow my dream of being a better writer and pursue publishing.
I first met Diane when I worked at the Grand Californian and we had a very brief interaction. When she first approached me, I thought she was just a guest making small talk. I honestly had no idea who she was. I knew Walt had a daughter named Diane, but I didn’t know what she looked like. Who knew that she was charming and dedicated to preserving her father’s dream?
The main part I remember about the interaction was when she asked my favorite part about working at Disneyland. Without knowing who she was, I told her “it was creating a lasting memory for people and carrying on Walt’s dream”. I remember she smiled so gracefully at me and said, “Keep doing that… we need more like you”. After she turned to leave, another cast member ran up frantically congratulating me on speaking to one of Walt’s children!
I felt stupid because I would have shaken her hand and just said thank you so much. I mean, Disneyland was inspired by her and her sister. Years ago, Walt sat on a bench, watched her play, and had this dream of Disneyland. After that brief interaction, I never thought I would get another chance to tell Diane thank you.
A few years later, I launched this blog and got an email from Diane.
In the email, she thanked me for writing about Walt’s dream and encouraged me to get it published— these stories of positive guest interactions need to be told. From that communication, I was able to finally thank her for her contribution and for being a lifelong supporter of her father’s dream.
CM Skipper Annie
Once again, I found myself working the desk and waiting for the next guest. I remember I was working on a welcome packet when a gray-haired lady walked up to the counter. She had kind eyes and a wonderful smile, yet I could tell something was bugging her.
I welcomed her and did the normal check-in. When I asked her if she needed any Disneyland maps, she started to cry. I was so afraid that I had done something, so I asked if she was alright. She managed to tell me how Disneyland was the last stop in her Disney Parks Tour.
She had been to Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and to Disney World. I was quite impressed; this 70 year old lady had seen almost every Disney Park in the world! She then told me that it was her husband’s dream to see all the parks. However, he had died of cancer a year ago.
They set out when they were in their early 50’s to see all the Disney Resorts, but he got sick and they never made it to Disneyland. Heartbroken, I listened to this lady pour out her heart about 50 years of marriage, 4 kids, and a lifetime of happiness. She exposed how she struggled with deep depression, holding on to the past, and the way her heart broke. Then, she told me of the moment it hit her. She was on a walk and started crying about all the things that they didn’t get to do and the fact that he never saw Disneyland.
She said she realized that instead of crying, she could carry on the legacy and in fact, complete their planned Disneyland park tour. So, she booked the nearest flight and came to California. I stood there amazed at such a strong woman, I admired her outlook on life and the fact she was completing her and her husband’s dream.
I asked her: What I can do to make this trip extra special for you? She simply said, “Can I have an I’m Celebrating Button?”
She then asked me to write the name of her husband on the button….I Am Celebrating: John. This moment brought tears to my eyes; she was celebrating her life with a wonderful man and starting to live again. She pinned the button on, took my hand, and said “Thank you. You’ve made my and John’s dreams come true”.
After that, she took her park maps and went to celebrate a day at Disneyland.
CM Skipper Annie
We’ve written two books about our time working – and playing – as Disney Cast Members at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
If you’d like to follow our daily Disney blog, here’s the link: https://collinsrace1.wordpress.com/
Have a magical day!
Two Disney Sisters