Centenarian who attended Disneyland's opening day in 1955 celebrates her 100th birthday at park

Dee Kolafa attended the park's opening day in 1955.

ByJ.J. Zavalla WLS logo
Saturday, April 1, 2023
Disneyland opening day guest celebrates her 100th birthday at park
Dee Kolafa attended Disneyland's opening day in 1955. Nearly seven decades later, she celebrated her 100th birthday as a special guest at the Anaheim theme park.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Dee Kolafa attended Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955. Nearly seven decades later, as the Walt Disney Co. is celebrating its centennial this year, Kolafa marked her 100th birthday as a special guest at the Anaheim theme park.

"I was a little surprised myself, that I woke up, to tell you the truth," Kolafa said with a smile on Wednesday. "I didn't know they were going to do this much. I was just real pleased that they were going to bring me to a celebration."

Her grandson, Eric Sawyer, said: "I just thought about it, and I thought, it's kind of cool that my grandma is turning 100 this year and the Disney company is turning 100."

Sawyer decided to write a letter to Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock, explaining the various connections between his grandmother and the company, including how they were both turning 100. Sawyer also mentioned that Kolafa's son and great-granddaughter have worked at Disneyland. Sawyer asked if Disneyland could recognize his grandmother's 100th year.

"I knew my grandma well enough to know that she'd be happy with just a letter," he said. "But instead they actually sent gifts from Disney and then a note saying, 'Come and join me.' She was very excited, very excited."

Kolafa, along with her family, made the trip from Sacramento to Anaheim.

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"Grandma Dee, as her family calls her, is celebrating her 100th birthday this month, which is incredibly exciting," Potrock said. "She remembers everything about opening day and all of her experiences across so many different decades. What a treat for us to be able to host her here at Disneyland today."

Kolafa and her family enjoyed some of her favorite attractions, including "It's A Small World," and they were given an exclusive tour to Walt Disney's apartment, located on Main Street, U.S.A.

"I don't know if there's anything else that could make this day any more special," Sawyer said.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of this ABC station.