In Memoriam
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The Passing of a Good Friend
by Diane McBain
(Star of Spinout and Thunder Alley)

Dear Friend,

It is very difficult to believe that my good friend, actress and writer, Deborah Walley, is gone. She was only 57 years old and still very beautiful.

Although she traveled back and forth from LA to her home in Sedona, Arizona, it was a rare occasion that we could get together, so the last time I saw her, she looked quite thin, but her eyes were remarkably clear and bright.

She had been told she had six months to live, with advanced Esophageal Cancer, and she was doing everything she could to stave off the inevitable. Deborah was a fighter. She never would accept that she didn't have enough time. She was quite determined that the alternative treatments she was using were: ". . .shrinking the tumor, as we speak." She said it with such a big confident smile, it was hard to believe otherwise. But, on Thursday, May 10th, early in the morning, Deborah passed away at her home in Sedona.

I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around that reality. Deborah's life was often an inspiration to my own. The beauty with which she surrounded herself, the love with which she drew people, animals and creatures of all kinds to her side, the thoughtfulness she had about life that she would openly share, especially in her writing, all inspired me to overcome my fears and reservations.

She had vision, and a spot as soft as all-get-out for children. She wrote mostly for children and touched special places in them that few of us can. She wrote a lot of things, books, plays and screenplays, yet many of them remain unpublished or un-produced. Her dynamite screenplay called Last of the Blues an animated musical feature about the last of the endangered Blue Whales, written 30 or so years ago, has yet to see the light of the big screen, or the small. The excuse at Disney was that whales were too large to animate. And, Dinosaurs are not? Hello. Someone needs to take that project back to Disney and sit on their doorstep until they wake up and smell the coffee. It's impossible to believe that Deborah will not be the one to do that. We talked about it the last time we were together and she seemed hopeful about that too.

Here it is Mother's Day, and she isn't around to see her two sons, all grown now, to celebrate her motherhood. She was a loving mother, maybe even too loving at times. I remember how she would gather her boys up into her arms. One at a time, of course, because they were born quite far apart. Tony was almost a young man when Justin came along. I know they must miss her big time, because she was very close to each. I think she passed away knowing that her children are well on their way to great success and a good life.

A long time ago, when she was still living here in the LA area full time, up in a wonderful spot called Malibu Lake, we took a long walk together through the woods. I can't remember the conversation exactly, but I was grousing about something or another, and I'll never forget, Deborah turned to me and said: "But, Diane, you are an adult now." It took me by such surprise, I had to stop and think. Truly, I felt like a little girl with her, like a child who had yet to fully develop and mature. That day, and certainly that moment, I felt like a little girl who hadn't a clue. It was Deborah's reminder, then and forever after, that, indeed, I am an adult now, that has brought me back to my senses time and time again.

Another friend of ours, Deborah's and mine, has a tough time understanding about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She has a good excuse; she's an atheist. I do not however, have any such excuse since I am an avowed Christian. So, it has been difficult to find a way to explain it to her since I barely understand it myself. But, I have recently thought about the spirit of Jesus in the context of my relationship with Deborah Walley.Deborah, simply by living her dream, inspired me to become a writer, too. She never told me to become a writer, but it was her love of writing, and expressing her ideas with a lively spirit that turned me around and sent me on what has become a 20 year odyssey. There have been times when Deborah and her lively spirit weren't around very much and it was particularly difficult at those times to gain ground in my writing. But when she was more available, and I could feel her spirit, the writing came along much more smoothly. It's that way with Jesus, too. When I feel His spirit, the spirit that inspired me to a become better person in the first place, it is easier to find the will to do better. And, when His spirit is somehow absent (I suspect not from me, but because of me) it is that much more difficult to find the will to do the best I can.

Deborah's passing will bring her closer somehow. Her photograph hangs on my wall and it has been an inspiration at times in the past when I have needed it, and I have the feeling that her spirit is already pressing me to finish the screenplay that's almost done, and get it in the mail as soon as the ink dries. Deborah will forever be my muse to become a better, more inspired writer.

In that her spirit and vision remain, Deborah lingers with us, and she will always be a light to follow, a reason to remember the beauty and excellence in ourselves, and an inspiration to be the best we can be.

Diane McBain
May 13, 2001





 

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