The Passing of a Good Friend
by Diane McBain
(Star of Spinout and Thunder Alley)
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
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
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unpublished or un-produced.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
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.
May 13, 2001