|Birthplace:||Spalding, Idaho, United States|
|Death:||Died in Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Cause of death:||Lillian Disney suffered a stroke on December 15, 1997, exactly 31 years after the death of Walt Disney. She died the following morning at her home, aged 98.|
|Managed by:||Sherry Kennedy|
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About Lillian Marie Disney (Bounds)
While Lillian Disney, wife of Company founder Walt Disney, worked behind the scenes in many ways to support the Company's growth, her most celebrated contribution is the naming of a certain animated character.
In 1928, as he rode a train from New York bound for Los Angeles, Walt devised a new character to turn around a serious business setback, "Mortimer Mouse."
"Not Mortimer," Lillian replied when he told her his idea. "It's too formal. How about Mickey." The rest, as they say, is history.
Born in Spalding, Idaho, Lillian grew up in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, where her father worked as a blacksmith and federal marshal.
She moved to Los Angeles in 1923, and won a job at the fledgling Walt Disney Studio as a secretary and "inker" of animated cels. Lillian met the boss, who sometimes asked her not to cash her $15-a-week paycheck. Soon, the boss met her family and on July 13, 1925, they married in Lewiston, Idaho.
"I think my dad fell in love with her almost immediately ... she was an independent little lady," says daughter Diane Disney Miller.
Lillian traveled with her husband on many of his business trips, including the government-sponsored Good Will tour of South America in 1941, which resulted in the production of such animated features as "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros".
While raising their two daughters, Lillian served as a sounding board for her husband as he created films and the theme park that made him and his company known internationally. Lillian was a conservative balance to Walt's daring, and yet was indulgent, too, allowing him to dig a tunnel under her prized flower garden for his backyard railroad at their Holmby Hills estate.
As her nephew Roy E. Disney recalls, Lillian was "always prepared to speak the truth, tough and warm and loving at the same time. She was a very special person. You couldn't help loving her and you'd never forget her ... or her hearty laugh."
The publicity-shy Lillian ventured into the public arena after Walt's death in 1966 to lend support to the fulfillment of his dreams. In October 1971, she attended the dedication of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, along with Company co-founder and Walt's loyal brother Roy O. Disney.
"I think Walt would have approved," she said to Roy and those who helped realize her husband's dream. Eleven years later, she returned to Florida to attend the 1982 dedication of EPCOT Center.
Lillian also lent support to Walt's venture into education, the multi-disciplinary California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which opened in 1971 in Valencia. Among her gifts to the school were funds to remodel a campus theater and rename it the Walt Disney Modular Theater in 1993.
On May 12, 1987, Lillian announced a gift of $50 million to build a new symphony hall designed by architect Frank Gehry in Los Angeles. A long-time patron of the arts, this was her ultimate gift to the community and to the love of her life. The Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, debuted in October 2003.
Lillian Disney suffered a stroke on December 15, 1997, 31 years to the day after the death of her husband, and died the following day.
Lillian was born in Spalding, Idaho. She grew up in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation where her father worked as a blacksmith and federal marshal. She had short brown hair, a slender body, and was thought to be very attractive. Lillian was working at the Disney Studio in "ink and paint" when she met Walt. She took deep pride that Walt would drive the other girls home before her, even though her stop was the closest.
Lillian and Walt Disney married in 1925 in Idaho at Lewiston's Episcopal Church of the Nativity (http://www.nativitylewiston.com/), however, Walt's parents could not attend. She wore a dress which she had made herself. Her cousin recalled that she giggled nervously throughout the service. She and Walt had two daughters - Diane Marie Disney and Sharon Mae Disney, the latter of whom was adopted. She was the aunt of Roy Edward Disney and had seven grandchildren, Chris Miller, Joanna Miller, Tamara Scheer, Jennifer Miller-Goff, Walter Elias Disney Miller, Ronald Miller and Victoria Brown.
Her filmography includes work as an ink artist on the film Plane Crazy. She is credited with having named her husband's most famous character, Mickey Mouse, during a train trip from New York to California in 1928. Walt showed a drawing of the cartoon mouse to his wife and told her that he was going to name it "Mortimer Mouse". She replied that the name sounded "too pompous" and she was very proud to have suggested the name "Mickey Mouse" instead of Mortimer.
Life after Walt
In 1987, Lillian Disney pledged a $50 million gift towards the construction of a new concert hall. After many delays, the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in 2003, six years after her death.
In the 1990s, reflecting on her 41 year marriage to Walt Disney, she said "We shared a wonderful, exciting life, and we loved every minute of it. He was a wonderful husband to me and wonderful and joyful father and grandfather".
Lillian Disney suffered a stroke on December 15, 1997, exactly 31 years after the death of Walt Disney. She died the following morning at her home, aged 98.
^ Disney Legends - Lillian Disney
^ Walt Disney: Conversations (Conversations With Comic Artists Series) by Kathy Merrockobamya Jackson with Walt Disney, ISBN 1-57806-713-8 page 120
Lillian Marie Disney's Timeline
February 15, 1899
Spalding, Idaho, United States
Lapwai, Nez Perce, Idaho
July 13, 1925
Lewiston's Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Idaho, United States
December 18, 1933
Burbank, Los Angeles, California, USA
December 21, 1936
Los Angeles, CA, USA
December 16, 1997
Los Angeles, California, United States