Two days ago, Donald Duck turned 85 years old, and Shawnee resident Betty Calcara took special notice of the day for good reason: Her uncle, Clarence Charles Nash, was the first person to give the beloved Disney character his voice.
Nash was the voice of Donald Duck for 50 years in roughly 150 cartoons and several films.
“I’m just very thankful to still be around for his 85th birthday,” Calcara said, adding that it has been “heartwarming” to watch others enjoy her uncle’s talent for so many years.
Nash first voiced Donald Duck in the debut of “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9, 1934. Calcara recalled one particularly special memory: The 50th birthday celebration of Donald Duck in May 1984. Her Uncle Nash came to visit her and her family in the Kansas City area and had a celebration in her front yard. During that same visit, Nash also entertained parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
“That’s my most memorable time of visiting with him, although there were so many occasions,” she said.
Calcara has many other fond memories of her uncle, including his special Donald Duck peanut butter cookie recipe, which simply called for one egg, one cup of sugar and one cup of peanut butter.
Inspired by the sounds of his own pet goat, Nash created the voice of Donald Duck, his girlfriend Daisy Duck, and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. He also imitated birds and barnyard animals. He voiced several other animated characters, including Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio” (after the original actor died) and the birds whistling in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Cinderella.”
He retired in the 1970s, but he continued traveling across the country, paying visits to sick children and making other special appearances with a puppet version of Donald Duck. Although Nash died of leukemia at age 80 in February 1985, a year after Donald Duck’s 50th birthday, the duck continued on making films with other voice actors, primarily Tony Anselmo, but Daniel Ross as well. Calcara said Anselmo learned how to do Donald Duck’s voice from her uncle.
“That duck, a lot of people said they could hardly ever understand that quacking, but they loved hearing him,” Calcara said. “I’m hoping that will continue, of course, in the memory of my uncle Clarence. He was one of those unique people you wish could live forever.”