It is with great sadness that The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures announces thepassing of co-founder Walter J. Arnell on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife and museum founder, Patricia C. Arnell, as well as two daughters and four grandchildren.
Dr. Arnell had a rich and interesting life as a pilot, engineer, academic and filmmaker. Born British, he experienced World War II as an apprentice at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in England and later flew diving test flights of the renowned Spitfire to perfect instrumentation by predicting the point of no return. A taste of California while in service with the Merchant Marines led him to later return to southern California where he met his wife. He went on to get a doctorate in Engineering Psychology from University College London and returned again to the United States to take the position of Professor of Engineering at USC. When Cal State Long Beach started, he was invited to join the Engineering Faculty and was appointed its Dean.
The couple and their children later moved to Hawaii, where Arnell helped to define a groundbreaking research program in the engineering field, sustainability. There, the couple’s beachfront house attracted the attention of the producers of Hawaii Five-O, and a number of episodes were filmed at their home. It was then that Arnell became interested in filmmaking. Over the years, he took up filmmaking and editing as a serious avocation. He went on to make, and sell commercially, films on a wide variety of topics, which led to many adventures from the Arctic to the Antarctic and several awards.
When the Arnells moved to Tucson in the late 1970s, he became affiliated with the University of Arizona’s Systems & Industrial Engineering Department, where he was instrumental in developing the department’s experimental, but very successful, masters degree program for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-technical field.
It was during this time that Mrs. Arnell became heavily involved with creating and collecting miniatures. Her interest led to travels around the world and participation in national organizations such as NAME (the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts). Dr. Arnell accompanied her on these trips and became involved himself, serving in several positions on the Board of Trustees for NAME.
By 2005 Mrs. Arnell’s collection had become so extensive that she dreamed of a way to share it with others. Dr. Arnell was very involved in turning this dream into a reality. The couple selected an architect and exhibit designers to bring their vision to life. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures was established as a nonprofit 501(c)3 and opened its doors to the public on September 1, 2009.
A private service was held and the museum will mount an exhibit of aircraft and other conveyances in his memory, slated to open in the fall of 2016.
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Gentry Spronken, Director of Marketing & Communications at 520-881-0606 ext. 104 or by email