Over the course of his 21-year career as a U.S. Naval aviator, Alex Stromski had a callsign: “Stop Sign.” Then, over the final 13 years of his life, the longtime Disney fan became a cast member at Pinocchio Village Haus, where, as he said, “I earned a new callsign: ‘Gepetto.’”
Enlisting in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II, Alex went to flight school with future NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a lieutenant commander in 1967. After several post-service careers, he was in retirement but decided he enjoyed Walt Disney World Resort so much that he wanted a full time role with the resort. He happily made the 170-mile round-trip commute from his home in Ormond Beach, Fla. eager to greet guests and brighten the days of his fellow cast members.
The cast saw him as a confidant and friend. Whenever someone was facing struggles or a conflict, he would answer, “Ask yourself this question: will it matter 50 years from now?’
Alex was already regularly mentioned on social media when he was honored with a 2021 flag-raising ceremony at Town Square for his service to both our country and The Walt Disney Company. Featured in a Disney Parks Blog post for Armed Forces Day and a video profile by the resort, Alex’s story was picked up by news outlets around the world. Alex was also a participant in Flag Retreat ceremonies in Magic Kingdom Park when we would honor his fellow WWII veterans.
Soon, a steady stream of guests were arriving at Pinocchio Village Haus to meet and chat with Alex, shake his hand and thank him for his service. Then they would stay for a Chicken Souvlaki Flatbread, PB&J Uncrustable or other menu delights. Many Disney cast and leaders also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet this big-hearted hero.
Earlier this summer, after Alex had informed Magic Kingdom Park that he was ill and would soon be going into hospice care, the team responded by visiting his home and sharing some news: he had been previously nominated and selected for The Walt Disney Legacy Award. He was given his blue Legacy nametag: the first cast member to receive it in 2022.
That news pleased Alex, but he still had one more thing to do. Working with his hospice medical personnel to adjust his medications, he and a small group of family members made a morning visit to Pinocchio Village Haus to have one last visit with his team and comfort them. Cast members, some of whom had come in early or on their day off, lined up to visit with him, hang with him and pray with him.
Ever the optimist, Alex offered words of encouragement during this emotional visit with his friends and fellow cast members saying, “It’s up to you, now. Greet the guests and make their day magical.”
Then, recalling the words of a song from the Disney-Pixar feature, “Coco,” he added one request of them: “Remember me.”
Alex passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Aug. 6, 2022.
Alex … thank you for helping us make magic. We will always remember you.