By the D23 Team
Ron Dominguez, a Disney Legend and former executive vice president of Walt Disney Attractions, passed away early today, January 1, 2021. He was 85. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Betty, and three children from a previous marriage, Sheryl Ralston, Steve Dominguez, and Ronald K. Dominguez Jr, four grandchildren Joby Ralston, Tim Ralston, Chase Dominguez and Reid Dominguez. Great-Grandson Brooks. Ron had a brother, Paul, who had two daughters; Jonnie Jean Hofer, who resides in Iowa, and Melanie Harner, who was raised by the Dominguez family in California.
“We are saddened to have lost a very dear member of our family, Ron Dominguez,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “Ron’s contributions to Disneyland are nearly incalculable. He was well-known among the cast and community throughout his tenure at the park and continued to show his support long after his retirement, guiding and mentoring leaders, including me, for decades. I am personally grateful for all that he has done for Disney, and want to express my deepest condolences to his family on behalf of every Disney Parks cast member around the world.”
Known as a “native Disneylander,” Dominguez’s family originally owned and lived on 10 acres of the orange grove-covered property that was purchased by Walt Disney for his theme park in 1954.
“Our house was located right about where the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and Cafe Orleans are today,” he once recalled. “The day we moved out, in August of 1954, we were walking in ditches and holes. Things were popping up around us because construction had to move ahead. They built Disneyland in a year.”
Ron, his mother, and brother all grew up on the Anaheim property. They had inherited it from Ron’s grandfather, who had purchased 30 acres of land in the area in the late 1800s. The day they moved away was bittersweet; as Ron recalled, “It was a very emotional day.”
Born on August 10, 1935, Ron later attended Anaheim High School and the University of Arizona, where he studied business administration. Then, on July 13, 1955, just four days before Disneyland opened, 20-year-old Ron took a summer job as a ticket taker at the new theme park. He found that Walt had moved his family’s two-story, Spanish-style house behind Main Street, U.S.A. for use as administrative offices.
Ron gives his former boss Doc Lemmon credit for encouraging him to extend his summer job. Within one year of joining Disney, he had been trained on every attraction and was named temporary supervisor of Main Street, U.S.A.
One of his most memorable stints was working as Davy Crockett on the Keel Boats. Dressed in a coonskin cap, Ron was a popular target for photographers. He didn’t relish the attention, and quickly asked for a transfer.
In 1957, Ron became assistant supervisor of Frontierland and went on to supervise Adventureland and Frontierland before being named supervisor of Tomorrowland in 1962. That same year, he became general supervisor of the west side of the Park and was later promoted to its manager.
By 1970, Ron was appointed director of operations, and, four years later, was named vice president of Disneyland and chairman of the park operating committee. In 1990, he was named executive vice president, Walt Disney Attractions, West Coast.
Throughout his career, Ron developed strong relations with the City of Anaheim, devoting hours of service to local organizations and helping pave the way toward creation of a second local theme park, Disney California Adventure.
Ron Dominguez retired in August 1994 after 39 years of service to The Walt Disney Company.
He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2000 and has a window on Main Street, U.S.A at Disneyland park.
As Disney Legend and Ron’s Disneyland colleague Mary Anne Mang once recalled, “If Ron has one fault, it’s not really believing how special he is to people: He touches people’s lives.”