Disney Salutes 101-Year-Old Navy Vet in Magic Kingdom

The Navy veteran’s husband helped build the theme park in Florida
Dorothy "Pat" Rudd in the Magic Kingdom
Dorothy “Pat” Rudd volunteered to join the Navy in 1942. Walt Disney photo

Disney honored 101-year-old World War II female U.S. Navy veteran Dorothy “Pat” Rudd as “Veteran of the Day” during the June 7th Flag Retreat ceremony in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.

After U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted Public Law 689 in 1942, Rudd volunteered and joined the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program to carry out shore-based tasks for the U.S. Navy.

The bill allowed women to serve in the U.S. Navy for the duration of the war plus an additional six months and created the Women’s Reserve as a division of the Naval Reserve. Rudd, who was based in Washington, D.C., was one of the first 200 WAVES to be sent overseas; she was sent to the then Territory of Hawai’i. She worked as an instructor there, helping soldiers learn to read and write while also assisting in the hospital’s care of the injured.

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At Pearl Harbor, Rudd met her active-duty Navy husband Gerald, with whom she was married for 71 years. Pat visited Frontierland in Magic Kingdom, where her late husband helped make a reality, before taking part in the Flag Retreat ceremony. Gerald was a member of the construction crew that created the buildings in this theme park section, as well as pieces of EPCOT and the original Walt Disney World resort hotels.

“I was really happy the buildings he helped build in Frontierland are still there,” said Rudd. “I’m proud of him and that his work has brought so much joy to so many people here at Disney.”

Members of Disney SALUTE, a veteran employee resource organization, including Susan Finnigan, lead project manager for Disney marketing and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, honored Rudd throughout the day’s activities.

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