Philanthropist Diane Disney Miller, who was the daughter of Walt Disney, died Tuesday at her home in Napa, Calif. She had suffered a fall in September 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 prexy and 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 Disney 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.