In observance of Memorial Day today, Diane Disney Miller--The Walt Disney Family Museum's co-founder and daughter of Walt Disney--penned this entry about a trip she took to the National World War I Museum to celebrate their acquisition of a WWI Ford ambulance--similar to the one her father drove in the first World War. Happy Memorial Day!
Some months ago The Walt Disney Family Museum received an email from the World War 1 Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. They had been gifted with an authentic WW1 Ford ambulance, and wanted to contact families of men who had driven those vehicles during the war. My father--along with Ernest Hemingway, and Ray Croc (the founder of McDonalds)--was on their list. They wondered if any member of Walt Disney's family might be interested in coming to the event they were planning to celebrate this acquisition. I replied immediately: I would be there, with as many family members that were able to come as well! On Monday, March 12, I left for Kansas city. I was joined there by my daughter Tamara, with her two daughters, Danielle Durham and Haley Scheer--who came from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area--as well as my niece, Michelle Lund, from Orange County, CA. It was kind of a small family reunion, as well as a very moving visit to my father's roots.
This World War I Museum is amazing! It was created in 2006 as an addition to the Liberty Memorial, a stunning structure that crowns a hilltop in the city, built after the Great War to honor this who served in it. Money was raised after the war, and a national architectural competition resulted. The building opened to the public in 1926, and is the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving the materials, history, and personal experiences of World War 1. Their ambulance differs from ours in that it has a body of mahogany--painted--not canvas. Ours is just like the one my father drove, which he decorated with cartoons.
This specific trip also provided an opportunity for me to reconnect with Butch Rigby and Dan Viets, whom I'd met during our first visit to Kansas City more than 10 years ago. Leslie Iwerks--granddaughter of Ub Iwerks--had been there, and told me about Thank You Walt Disney, an organization they had started, devoted to restoring the building where my father had started his first cartoon studio. They are still at it, and I met some other members of their team, several of whom had visited our Walt Disney Family Museum. I was really excited by their progress, and the plans they have for that building.
We went our separate ways at the Kansas City airport this morning, agreeing that it was a very meaningful excursion... and that we'd be back to spend more time in that museum.
Diane Disney Miller (as seen here with her daughter Tamara)
Daughter of Walt Disney and Co-founder of The Walt Disney Family Museum