From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Cappy Surette
Giving a magical experience to someone is one of the best experiences you can have during the holiday season. We were able to do just that when we recently hosted a World War II Navy veteran—who helped build Epcot—for a backstage tour where he was able to see how his work continues to entertain our guests today.
We met Stephen Nemeth, a World War II Navy Seaman First-Class, on Veterans Day in Magic Kingdom Park where our Veteran Business Employee Resource Group called “SALUTE” hosted our annual special Flag Retreat Ceremony to honor cast members who have served in uniform. Stephen’s daughter is a cast member who shared with us that not only did her father help defend merchant ships from German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean during the war but was also a retired pipefitter who helped build Epcot as part of this iconic park’s construction team.
After learning of Steve’s many contributions, our Epcot Operations team invited him to take a tour of the areas he helped construct to thank him for his service to our nation and to Disney.
The tour transported Steve back in time, taking him to many of the places he helped create. He had a hand in working on some of the Audio-Animatronics and other features inside Spaceship Earth, Kitchen Cabaret, The Land Pavilion, as well as his greatest contribution, the American Adventure attraction inside the American pavilion.
Throughout the tour, Stephen smiled as he shared stories and details about his work and the many characters he helped bring to life including: chickens in The Land, Michelangelo in Spaceship Earth and Frederick Douglas in The American Adventure. Many of which are still in operation today.
“I enjoyed working here … this was the best job ever,” said Steve. “To me, this is my place.”
As the tour came to a close, we had a few more surprises in store for our seasoned veteran. A plaque was presented to him with a work wrench to thank him for all that he did to help build the park.
A challenge coin was given to him by our “SALUTE” Business Employee Resource Group, thanking him for his service to our country.
But the most special gift of all, and one that brought joyful tears to his eyes, came from our Marina cast at Epcot. Following a longstanding naval tradition, they named one of their workboats after him: a tribute to the many contributions he has made to Disney and the United States.
During this holiday season, we are thankful for all that Steve and the countless other Veterans have done in support of our nation. It is an honor to recognize those contributions and make moments like this special for our nation’s heroes.