The son of Disney's original Imagineer, Roger Broggie Jr. began working for the man he called "Uncle Walt" as a boy in 1950 when he tended the backyard railway at the studio mogul's home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Broggie was 11 when he and his younger brother, Michael, started serving as the crew for Walt Disney's miniature steam-engine railroad. The siblings pulled cars out of storage, dusted them off and rolled them down the track to a "Valley" called Yensid - "Disney" spelled backward.
"We had chores," said Michael Broggie, whose father helped Disney build and install the train. "As Dad and Walt got the engine ready, we would fill up the tenders with coal and water."
The rarefied pastime lasted until 1953, when Disney shut down the train that neighbors had lined up to ride. The small-scale attraction had served a historic purpose, helping to inspire the creation of Disneyland.
At 18, Roger Broggie Jr. joined Disney's company as an apprentice in the machine shop managed by his father, Roger Broggie Sr. The junior Broggie became an audio-animatronics pioneer, making key contributions to such attractions as Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, the Enchanted Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean.
He died Dec. 11 in Bend, Ore., from complications of a head injury he suffered when he fell while working on a float for a parade near his home in LaPine, Ore. Broggie was 73.
"Roger was one of the finest mechanical craftsmen who ever worked for the company; an absolute master," Marty Sklar, a retired longtime Disney executive, told the Los Angeles Times.
While helping to build several Disney attractions for the 1964 New York's World Fair, Broggie became known for his hands-on technical wizardry while helping to create the now-familiar form of Disney robotics known as audio-animatronics.
Making President Abraham Lincoln lifelike for Great Moments, which debuted at the fair, "was particularly challenging because no one had made a figure move like that before," said Michael Broggie, a Disney historian.
All of the electronic gizmos had to be contained within the framework of the sculpted head, a task that fell to Roger Broggie. An "interesting cheat" solved the problem, according to Jim Hill, who has tracked Disney history for more than 30 years. The wig was stretched out on the Lincoln head to make room for the bulky first-generation parts.
For the Enchanted Tiki Room, Broggie did an exceptional job building a flock of mechanical exotic birds, Sklar said, and his technical wizardry helped persuade Disney to open the Tiki Room in 1963 as a full-fledged attraction instead of a restaurant.
Broggie also played a lead role in the development and installation of audio-animatronic figures in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, which both opened in the late 1960s.
Disneyland pays homage to Broggie on Main Street, where his name appears in the window of the Little Gremlins Mechanical Toys shop.
Broggie spent his teen years watching Disneyland evolve, playing at the construction site and test-driving cars for the Autopia.
"They gave the first two prototypes to the Broggie brothers to drive around the lot," according to Hill. "They said, 'If they can't break them, the kids at Disneyland can't break them.' "
Of the eight Broggies who eventually worked for Disney, six have been Imagineers. Roger Broggie Jr.'s son, Garry Broggie, runs the machine shop once operated by his grandfather, who was instrumental in the development of Disneyland's railroad.
When Disney made the 1969 film "The Love Bug," Roger Broggie Jr.'s fascination with cars helped him build "something like 17 Volkswagens" to play the Beetle of the movie's title, his brother said. Each car was made to do a different trick, such as flying or floating.
'Dear Abby' dies at age 94 of Alzheimer's disease
Pauline Friedman Phillips, who as Dear Abby dispensed snappy, sometimes saucy advice on love, marriage and meddling mothers-in-law to millions of newspaper readers around the world and opened the way for the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Oprah, died Wednesday in Minneapolis after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 94. See full obituary on page D5.
LGBT journalists group's national president dies
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association says its president, Michael Triplett, has died. Triplett, who was an assistant managing editor at Bloomberg BNA, was 48.
The association said in an email that Triplett had cancer and died Thursday. A spokeswoman for Bloomberg BNA said he died in Alabama, where he was visiting family. He lived in Washington.
Triplett was a board member and then president of the Washington chapter of NLGJA. He became president of the national group last year.
Triplett worked on the daily tax report at Bloomberg BNA. He had worked with BNA since 2000. BNA was acquired by Bloomberg in 2011.
He was a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and the American University Washington College of Law.
Woman with rare 'giant' disorder dies at age 34
As a teenager growing up in Las Vegas, Tanya Angus strutted along fashion runways. She was 5 feet 8 inches tall.
But at the time of her death there Monday, Angus, 34, stood 7 feet 2 inches and weighed about 400 pounds. She was a victim of a rare disorder called acromegaly that wouldn't let her stop growing. In children the condition is known as gigantism.
" 'Mom, I don't know why I got it,' " Karen Strutynski recalled her daughter saying. " 'But I guess God decided that I could handle it.' "
Handle it she did - by appearing on television specials and in the news, and talking about the condition that left her face misshapen and gave her chronic growing pains.
Her condition was the result of the release of too much growth hormone caused by a noncancerous tumor on her pituitary gland.
The disorder affected just about everything for Angus. She couldn't pull even the largest of shirts over her head, because she couldn't fit through the collar. She needed specially made shoes, and jewelers stretched her rings to size 20.
Some people judged her daughter, Strutynski said, believing she used a wheelchair because she lacked the discipline to keep her weight down. What they didn't know is that she ate one meal a day, and her medications caused her face to swell.
After television appearances, Angus became an advocate for those with the disease, corresponding with people from some 60 countries to help them. She saw her mission as helping others get diagnosed before it was too late and the disease got out of control, her mother said.
An autopsy is pending, but Strutynski said it appears Angus died after catching a cold and developing a tear in her heart.