Ron Miller — Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive, win­ery co-owner

San Francisco Chronicle - - OBITUARIES - By Peter Fim­rite Peter Fim­rite is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: pfim­[email protected]­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @pfim­rite

Ron Miller, a wine­maker and for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ball player who helped es­tab­lish the San Fran­cisco mu­seum ded­i­cated to his fa­therin-law, Walt Dis­ney, died Satur­day of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure.

Miller, who worked as a pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and ex­ec­u­tive at the Walt Dis­ney Co. be­fore found­ing Sil­ver­ado Vine­yards in the Napa Val­ley, died at his Napa home. He was 85.

He met his fu­ture wife, Diane Dis­ney, on a blind date af­ter a game be­tween his Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia foot­ball team and UC Berke­ley. They mar­ried in Santa Bar­bara in 1954 and raised seven chil­dren. Miller served in the Army and later played quar­ter­back for the Los An­ge­les Rams in 1962. He was re­cruited by his fa­ther-in-law to work at Dis­ney­land, which opened in Ana­heim on July 17, 1955.

He soon moved to Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios, serv­ing as sec­ond as­sis­tant for the movie “Old Yeller” in 1957. He was a pro­ducer on sev­eral films, in­clud­ing “Son of Flub­ber” in 1963 and “Es­cape to Witch Moun­tain” in 1975. He also di­rected por­tions of “The Mag­i­cal World of Dis­ney” tele­vi­sion se­ries.

Af­ter Dis­ney’s death in 1966, Miller led the ex­pan­sion of the com­pany, cre­at­ing Dis­ney Home Video, Touch­stone Pic­tures and the Dis­ney Chan­nel. He served as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Walt Dis­ney Co. from 1978 to 1984, ini­ti­at­ing the move into com­puter an­i­ma­tion and stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion among other cre­ative ven­tures.

Miller, wife Diane, and mother-in-law Lil­lian Dis­ney pur­chased Napa Val­ley prop­erty near Yountville in 1977 and started Sil­ver­ado Vine­yards in 1981.

He left Dis­ney in 1984 and moved with his wife onto the prop­erty, where they ran the vine­yard. The Millers, who also had a home on Rus­sian Hill, es­tab­lished the Walt Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum, which opened in 2009 on the Main Post of the Pre­sidio of San Fran­cisco.

Af­ter his wife’s death in 2013, Miller served as pres­i­dent of the board of direc­tors at the mu­seum.

A pas­sion­ate out­doors­man who loved ski­ing, hunt­ing, fly-fish­ing and horse­back rid­ing, Miller was known as a funny, highly in­tu­itive man and a great leader.

“He had an in­cred­i­ble mind for busi­ness and was both prag­matic and in­tu­itive,” said Kirsten Ko­moroske, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and board mem­ber at the Dis­ney mu­seum. “He also had many won­der­ful sto­ries about his life with Diane and work­ing with Walt, and we would of­ten spend time af­ter our meet­ings talk­ing about his me­mories. Ron was the best boss I’ve ever had.”

He is sur­vived by four sons, Christo­pher Miller, Wal­ter Elias Dis­ney Miller, Ron­ald Miller and Pa­trick Miller; three daugh­ters, Joanna Miller, Ta­mara Diane Miller and Jen­nifer Goff; 13 grand­chil­dren; and four great­grand­chil­dren.

Do­na­tions may be made to the me­mo­rial fund at the Walt Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum, At­ten­tion: Di­rec­tor’s Of­fice, 104 Mont­gomery St., San Fran­cisco, CA 94129.

Ser­vices will be pri­vate.

Spencer A. Brown

Ron Miller and his wife were founders of Sil­ver­ado Vine­yards and the Walt Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum.

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