Why Walt Disney Felt Responsible For His Mother’s Death

Walter Elias Disney, or “Walt” as almost everyone who knew him and loved him called him, brought joy to untold millions of people. Whether via the various media — movies, television, books — that were produced by the company that bore his name, or whether later, through his company-branded theme parks, Disney worked hard at making sure that anyone who crossed his brand did so with a smile on their face.

His business, now one of the biggest in the world, suffered a bankruptcy early on, almost thwarting his ambitions, according to the law firm of Hathaway, Perrett, Webster, Powers, Chrisman & Gutierrez. Going even further back, he grew up in poverty in the Midwest, and his father was, according to Biography, likely abusive, at least by modern standards.

Despite these difficulties, Disney cared for his parents, and when he started making money, saw to it that they had a good home and that their needs were met. Unfortunately, that new home was the catalyst for the death of his mother, Flora Disney, and he blamed himself for it for the rest of his life, according to Mental Floss.

Flora Disney died in a gas leak for which Walt blamed himself

By the late 1930s, as The Vintage News reported, Walt and his brother Roy had turned the corner on their company’s financial problems, and were making decent money, and then some. Until that time, the brothers’ parents, Elias and Flora Disney, had been operating a rooming house in Portland, much to the brothers’ annoyance. Now flush with money, they purchased a home for their parents and moved them to Southern California.

Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Disney, the home’s central heating system, which used natural gas, had a leak. Walt sent someone from his own repair crew to fix it, but he, unfortunately, didn’t do the job correctly, according to the book, “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.” In November of 1938, Elias Disney found his wife unconscious on the bathroom floor, while he himself gasped for breath. Mr. Disney survived, but Mrs. Disney did not, dying at the age of 70 from carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to Mental Floss, Walt’s daughter, Sharon, said that her father never forgave himself. Even years after she died, he found the subject too difficult to talk about, Sharon said.

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