Michelle Landes, a native Chicagoan who had worked as an Executive Legal Assistant at the Walt Disney Company since 2005, passed away on September 7.
A pedestrian fatality of an accident that occurred around 9 a.m., she was struck by a driver while crossing an intersection en route to the Burbank studio.
Over the course of her career, Landes spent nearly four decades in the entertainment industry after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Southern Illinois University.
Besides showing an incomparable devotion and appreciation for the work and culture at Disney Studios, Landes was also known as an animal lover who joked that her pet dog, Bug, was her soul mate
She also volunteered at Milo’s Sanctuary in Burbank, the shelter where she originally found not only Bug but also Frankie, her cat, and where they are both receiving temporary shelter and care until moving on to their next family.
Landes’ notable career achievements include fifteen years as Audio Engineer at Chicago’s Zenith/DB Studios and four years as On-Set Coordinator for Holzer Roche Casting, which was co-founded, owned and operated by Reel Chicago’s current Owner and Publisher, Barbara Roche.
“Michelle worked with me in my casting office and as my set coordinator for several years,” Roche recalls. “She was a one of a kind: smart, quirky, great dry wit, sax player, jazz lover, and huge animal activist … a beautiful soul.”
Several family members, coworkers and friends who remember Landes’ rare combination of forthrightness and likability sang her praises on social media after learning about the tragedy.
“We have to make her proud every day for the rest of our lives,” wrote Landes’ sister, Lori. “Make her proud and live our lives with loving-kindness and passion, as she did.”
“I feel like I lost my soulmate yesterday,” wrote her niece. “You understood me like no one else and taught me so much. You were so much more than an aunt, you were my friend, my biggest fan, my role model, my heart.”
“Michelle, you were an inspiration,” wrote a neighbor from Landes’ childhood home in Calumet City. “You inspired us to introduce our children to a wide variety of (musical) instruments … your spirit will live on … as they continue to march, play and experiment.”
“There are very few people in my life that I can say were my friend and co-worker in Chicago and L.A.,” wrote a fellow Disney employee. “Michelle Landes was one of them.”
“I work at the Disney commissary and saw Michelle most every day,” wrote another. “I asked her on Friday about why she eats PB&J and she told me that it reminds her of being a kid and that she misses the simple things of childhood.”
“If there is any justice at all in this world, (Michelle) will have an honored space in the next world,” wrote a friend. “I love you, Michelle, and will miss you here. Thanks for the memories.”
A Disney security guard who greeted Michelle nearly every day had a dream that has comforted him in the wake of the tragedy.
“(She) walked in to work as normal with her wonderful smile,” he remembers. “(I) could see her so clearly — her hair, her glasses. She stopped and smiled and said to tell everyone that she was OK.”
The Landes family is planning memorial services for both Chicago and Los Angeles. Reel Chicago will report specific details when they are confirmed.