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Shirley Hassler, a great grandmother of 14, has been collecting Mickey and Minnie Mouse memorabilia for decades. John A. Pavoncello, York Dispatch

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Mickey Mouse has been one of the world's most beloved cartoon characters since he first hit the big screen in 1928, a little more than 10 years before Shirley Hassler was born.

The West York resident now counts herself among his and Minnie Mouse's biggest fans — and she has the collection to prove it.

Hassler, a 79-year-old Hanover native, has been collecting memorabilia of the world's most famous cartoon mice since 1966. She currently has 550 stuffed dolls, but when factoring in figurines, her collection hovers around 1,200.

If including other memorabilia, such as her Mickey Mouse shower curtain and towels, she would total even more.

Suffice it to say Hassler is passionate about the characters.

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The collection: "After your children leave home and they're all busy, you need something to occupy your time," she said. "I walk around, and I look at them. It just gives you something. A house is bare if you don't have something you like."

Earlier this month, Disney celebrated the 90th birthday of Mickey Mouse, who first appeared in the cartoon "Steamboat Willie" along with Minnie Nov. 18, 1928, at New York’s Colony Theatre. 

The iconic characters were created by Walt Disney, who twice failed to get his new characters on the screen before the third try proved successful.

Hassler is one of many who are glad Disney kept at it.

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Her meticulously organized collection consumes her Kingston House apartment, offering only a thin walking path between Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls stacked to the ceiling.

In terms of holiday spirit, she especially prizes one of her Christmas trees — she has two — decorated from top to bottom with Mickey and Minnie decorations.

The origin of her passion: Hassler said her interest in the two characters intensified after her first trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, when she instantly fell in love with the environment.

She has been there 20 more times since it opened in 1971 and to Disney Land in Anaheim, California, once.

"I was fascinated with the parade and 'Fantasia,'" she said. "Growing up, we lived on a farm, and we didn't get to do anything. Then you go down there and see all these little kids. It was gorgeous; everyone's blooming out."

Since that visit, collecting anything with the characters' faces on it has been her favorite hobby. She said she also enjoys reading, but "you can't find much to read about Mickey."

Hassler said she ideally would like to claim the Guinness World Record for the most Mickey and Minnie Mouse memorabilia, but she has a difficult record to beat.

Janet Esteves, of Celebration, Florida, currently holds the Guinness World Record for Mickey and Minnie Mouse memorabilia with more than 10,000 themed items.

The legacy may continue: Hassler, despite lagging behind the record, said she can happily live with just continuing the hobby she has so passionately enjoyed for the last five decades.

She can do so with the help of her family as well, since they contribute to her collection by bringing her more memorabilia for holidays and family events.

Some of them may even continue her Mickey and Minnie Mouse-filled legacy, she hopes.

Hassler has four children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Two of her great-grandchildren, she said, also love the characters, and she expects them to continue her enthusiasm.

For now, she said she has spent more than enough money on her collection, adding she "probably doesn't even want to know" the total price tag.

But with her Dec. 14 birthday and Christmas around the corner, it's no surprise what's going to be on her wish lists: new Mickey and Minnie memorabilia to fill the free space left in her apartment.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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