Members of the community were saddened to learn of the death of longtime La Cañadan Cardon "Card" Walker who led The Walt Disney Company for 15 years after the death of Walt Disney and that of his brother and co-founder Roy O. Disney. Walker died peacefully in his sleep at his La Canada Flintridge home on Nov. 29 at the age of 89 of congestive heart failure.
Not only did Walker leave his signature throughout the world as a Disney leader but also in the foothill area with his involvement as one of the founding board members of Verdugo Hills Hospital. He remained committed and active in support of the hospital as a board member for nearly 20 years.
Although Walker was not a board member of Hillsides School, he was a loyal supporter and very generous.
"Card and his wife Winnie were such warm and giving people, said Bob Frank, director of the school. "Our school wouldn't be what it is today without their financial gifts and generosity. Card was one of the most kind men I have ever known."
For over 30 years, Walker was on the board of directors of Flintridge Prep School in La Canada. Once again his generosity and support of the school was magnanimous.
"Winnie and Card were wonderfully generous to our school," said Peter Bachman, headmaster of Flintridge Preparatory School. "Card was also a wonderful personal mentor to me, so kind, generous and giving of resources and personal time.
"His leadership on the board was pivotal to the growth of our school. Card was a man of fierce integrity and commitment to excellence. He was a very great man and we honored both Card and Winnie in 2004 with the school's Master's Circle award.
Walker's 45-year career with Disney began after his graduation from UCLA. His first job at the company he would later lead began in the mailroom in 1938.
In the 1950s and '60s, Walker worked closely with the Disney brothers on a wide range of Disney projects; including the development of the Disneyland attractions It's a Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and the animated features "101 Dalmatians" and "The Jungle Book."
Walker helped lead the company through the transition after the death of Walt Disney in 1966. As a board member from 1960 until 1983, he was instrumental in helping to expand the company's theme parks, including the purchase and development of 28,000 acres in central Florida that later became Walt Disney World.
He became president of the company in 1971, the year Roy O. Disney died and Walt Disney World opened. In 1976 Walker became chief executive officer and was elected chairman of the board in 1980.
Walker presided over the opening of EPCOT in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland and the 1983 creation of the Disney Channel, the company's first cable network.
Later in 1983, Walker retired from Disney and Michael Eisner was named Disney CEO about a year later. Eisner said he often consulted with Walker during his 21-tenure at Disney, which ended this September.
"Thanks to his deep understanding of the company and its founders, talking to Card was the next best thing to talking to Walt himself," Eisner said. "Card successfully steered this company through a challenging time of transition, establishing an incredibly strong base for success on which Disney continues to build."
Robert Iger, newly appointed Disney CEO said in a statement, "Card was instrumental in keeping Disney strong and growing in the critical years that followed the passing of founders Walt and Roy Disney. There is little question that, were it not for Card Walker's vision and leadership, Disney would not be what it is today."
In his 45-year career at Disney Walker worked in Disney's camera and story departments and as a unit manager on short subjects before he moved into advertising and sales. After rising to vp marketing, he was elected to Disney's board of directors in 1960. He was named executive vp and chief operating officer following Walt Disney's death in 1966. He was promoted to president in 1971, following Roy O. Disney's death, and added the CEO title in 1976. He became chairman of the Disney board in 1980. He retired as chairman and CEO in 1983 but remained a consultant to the company until 1990.
Walker was proud to have served in the United States Navy and was a flight officer on the aircraft carrier "Bunker Hill." Among Walker's many awards and honors were Pioneer of the Year from the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers, the International Showmanship Award from the National Association of Theater Owners and the Alumnus of the Year Award from UCLA, his alma mater.
Card Walker was born Jan. 9, 1916 in Rexburg, Idaho and moved to Los Angeles with his parents when he was 8-years-old. He and Winnie first lived in Glendale and then moved to La Canada Flintridge in 1976.
After his retirement, Card became a passionate gardener and particularly loved working in his ever expanding rose garden. He had many friends here in the community. His close neighbor Frank Winnamen said, "Card was a winner in all aspects of his life. He was an outstanding friend, neighbor, father and husband. My wife Phyllis and I would always look forward to our "double dates" with he and Winnie when we would go to a movie and then dinner. He will be greatly missed by me and my entire family."