Sadly, Diane Disney Miller passed away earlier this week after complications from a fall she suffered in September.
Had you ever met her, you would have found her one of the most down to earth people. Simple, honest and pretty much what you saw is what she was. She was also very much her father’s daughter. If she did not like something, she did not hesitate to let you know.
She was the daughter of Walt and Lillian Disney. And like many children of celebrities of her generation, she never used that celebrity for anything personal. She was a wife, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
In March of 2006, I first met Diane at the offices of the Walt Disney Family Museum as it was in the planning stages. She was gracious to share some of the items collected for the Museum during a tour one afternoon. Afterwards, she and husband Ron Miller sat down with Leo Holzer and myself for an interview. It was a fascinating time and I learned a great deal about Diane, Ron and Walt that day.
This was also close to the time that Building 104 on the Presidio Main Post was chosen to be the home of the Walt Disney Family Museum. Although the Army had previously converted this former barracks into offices, and in the process removed much of the historic fabric of the structure, there still were many changes to be made. A fact Leo and I saw up close and personal on a July of 2008 (hard hat) tour with Diane while the construction was still underway. And when the museum did finally open to the public on October 1st, 2009, it was well worth the wait. As the project that grew out of Diane’s frustrations with how people portrayed her father incorrectly, and with the perception that he was just a brand and less of a real person, the final product continues to tell the tale of a man and the life he lived. With a rich history shared for all to enjoy.
Diane was also the first to admit that Walt was human. “Warts and all” was a term she used on more than one occasion. But she was also quick to set straight commonly misunderstood points. Such as he was not frozen or that he was not racist. She often would tell that he grew up a farm boy and lived life as it came. Dedicated to family and committed to seeing the company that bore his name succeed in bringing entertainment to many.
During the opening of the WDFM, Diane was asked if she would be writing a book someday. Smiling, she said that this was her book.
It was always a treat to watch Diane with guests at the Museum. When they realized who she was, it always seemed a surprise to them. Yet, Diane was always glad to pose for a quick photo or to sign an autograph. Much like her father, she was just another person with a story to tell. I am very glad to have been one of those able to listen in as she shared it with us.