The Sad Loss of a True Disneylander

Written by Mark Eades

Some sad news to start the new year. Ron Dominguez, known to many as “Mr. Disneyland, and a former executive Vice President of Disneyland, and a Disney Legend, passed away January 1, 2021. He was 85.

Ron was an original Disneyland Cast Member, even more so than others. His family owned and lived on 10 acres of orange groves that were purchased by Walt Disney for Disneyland in 1954.

According to Ron “Our house was located right about where the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and Cafe Orleans are today,”

When his family moved out of their house in August 1954 they had to navigate their way around ditches and holes as construction had started on the park.

Born August 10, 1935, Ron attended Anaheim High School and also attended the University of Arizona, where he studied business administration.

Ron’s first day on the job was July 13, 1955, when the 20-year-old took a summer job as a ticket taker as the park.

He also discovered that Walt had moved his family’s two-story, Spanish-style house behind Main Street U.S.A. and converted it into administrative offices.

A year after he started at Disneyland, he had been trained on every attraction including the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, and was a member of the Order of the Red Handkerchief, the first Alumni Club at Disneyland dedicated to those worked that attraction which closed in 1977.

Some sad news to start the new year. Ron Dominguez, known to many as “Mr. Disneyland, and a former executive Vice President of Disneyland, and a Disney Legend, passed away January 1, 2021. He was 85.

Ron was an original Disneyland Cast Member, even more so than others. His family owned and lived on 10 acres of orange groves that were purchased by Walt Disney for Disneyland in 1954.

According to Ron “Our house was located right about where the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and Cafe Orleans are today,”

When his family moved out of their house in August 1954 they had to navigate their way around ditches and holes as construction had started on the park.

Born August 10, 1935, Ron attended Anaheim High School and also attended the University of Arizona, where he studied business administration.

Ron’s first day on the job was July 13, 1955, when the 20-year-old took a summer job as a ticket taker as the park.

He also discovered that Walt had moved his family’s two-story, Spanish-style house behind Main Street U.S.A. and converted it into administrative offices.

A year after he started at Disneyland, he had been trained on every attraction including the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, and was a member of the Order of the Red Handkerchief, the first Alumni Club at Disneyland dedicated to those worked that attraction which closed in 1977.

Later in 1956, he was named a temporary supervisor of Main Street U.S.A. He moved on to supervisor positions of other areas throughout the park, and in 1970 was made director of operations. In 1974, he became Vice President of Disneyland an in 1990  was named executive Vice President, Walt Disney Attractions for the West Coast.

He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2000, and has a window on Main Street.

He had been married to his wife, Betty, for 41 years.

Ron retired from Disney in August 1994.

Photo courtesy of The Disneyland Alumni Club

Many who knew him shared their memories of Ron:

Richard Ferrin, Chair of the Disneyland Alumni Club said, “He was there from the very beginning and fully understood what Walt wanted in a cast member.”

“He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known,” said Scott Fleener, President of the Order of the Red Handkerchief, of which Ron was a member. The Order is made up of Cast Members who worked the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland“Sometimes ‘nice guys’ do finish first,” Scott said. “It’s very sad.”

“Ron and Jack Lindquist were two of the nicest men I encountered. I think that’s because they came from a time when the Disney Company was a family affair, when Walt walked the park and made sure certain standards were met no matter the cost,” said Leo Holzer.

“Ron was such a wonderful man. He stood up to Michael Eisner, every time the CEO wanted to take things away from the employees,” said John Rayburn.

Tim O’Day, a marketing consultant, remembers him too, “It was Ron who saved my backside on my first day with Sunkist. No one told me about the mandatory black leather shoes that had to be worn and I arrived wearing white sneakers. Ron saw it and suggested I stay behind the counter if I saw a guy with a “John” name tag nearby.”

John McCoy, a former manager at Disneyland, said, “Ron was instrumental with his ‘down home’ leadership style and approachability in keeping the Magic alive during challenging times for Disneyland. His leadership, personality and true Disney Way will never be forgotten by those who benefited from working with him.”

February 18th, 2021