At the impressionable young age of seven my husband was blessed with the unique opportunity to personally meet Walt Disney at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and the impact of that encounter has remained with him throughout the years. With his dad by his side, they investigated the surprising appearance of three signs–carefully positioned over separate houses–each painted with a picture of Mickey, Minnie, or Pluto. He queried his dad with the curiosity present in all young boys, “Who lives there?” His dad asked workers involved in the activity surrounding the houses what they were doing to which they pleasantly responded “Walt Disney and his writers are here looking for ideas” continuing cheerfully “He’s down the street in that small stone cottage.” Hand-in-hand the two embarked on an odyssey of discovery as they proceeded on foot toward the abode. With a bold yet polite knock on the cottage door, they waited with anticipation as to who would greet them. Disney’s wife graciously opened the door as Walt Disney himself approached and extended a warm welcome to the wandering strangers. “Hello my name is Tom, and this is my son Tommy” was the introduction offered to Walt Disney. Pleasant conversation followed but my husband recalls only one exchange… He inquired of Walt Disney, “Where does Mickey live?” With a kind and gentle smile to melt the coldest of hearts, he thoughtfully bent down and as he drew near the small boy he placed his hand over his own heart… “Right here.”
These days Walt Disney the man–is but a faint memory associated most often with the pilgrimage families take to Disneyland or any number of assorted videos. If you pause and read quotes from him and look at the kindness in his eyes I believe he was so much more. He was a man to be admired and respected–not merely a label on a game. The kindness he lavishly showered on two sojourners that cold winter day was amazing in many ways, and one little boy received a memory to last a lifetime and with it the understanding of where dreams live.