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JoAnn Dean Killingsworth, Disneyland’s First Snow White, Dies at 91

JoAnn Dean Killingsworth, the first person to play Snow White at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., died Saturday. She was 91.

Her death comes just a few weeks shy of the park’s 60th anniversary. Disneyland recently hosted a weekend of festivities to celebrate its six decades in California.

Killingsworth, a professional figure skater and dancer on Broadway and in Hollywood, was born in Minneapolis in September 1923. She moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1931, and most recently lived in Brea, Calif.

After her family moved to L.A., they opened a canteen that became a full-fledged restaurant in what was then the Beverly Manor apartment house in Hollywood.

The restaurant’s success enabled the family to put Killingsworth through dancing lessons. She left home at 15 to join a skating troupe that shortly went on tour.

She would later go on to become the skating and dancing partner of Gene Nelson. She did some print modeling over the years as well, and made her first appearance as Snow White in 1955, riding a float down Main Street as the Disney character.

Killingsworth’s film credits include “Silver Skates” (1943), “Something for the Boys” (1944), “State Fair” (1945), “Rainbow Over Texas” (1946), “Lullaby of Broadway” (1951), “Sabrina” (1954), “Red Garters” (1954) and “Nob Hill” (1954).

She also appeared as a “Redette” dancer on the “Red Skelton Hour” for three years in the late ’50s.

In 1959, she and her then-husband James Killingsworth began publishing a weekly magazine in Newport Beach that would become the Orange County Illustrated. The magazine folded in the ’80s after the couple divorced.

She is survived by two stepsons, Bill and Larry Killingsworth, and a brother.

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