Wilford Brimley, a Hollywood actor and the face of Quaker Oats, died at the age of 85, his manager told TMZ. His agent, Lynda Bensky, told The New York Times that he had been suffering from a kidney ailment for months.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brimley Was A Veteran, Prankster and Rebel
Sad news: Actor #WilfordBrimley has passed away at the age of 85. He had a long career with starring roles in The Natural, Cocoon 1 & 2, The Thing, Walker Texas Ranger, The Firm. He was the spokesperson for both Quaker Oats & The American Diabetes Association campaign. pic.twitter.com/PTN5Djn65m
— Geeks + Gamers (@GeeksGamersCom) August 2, 2020
Brimley was the grandson of an English immigrant grandfather and Scottish grandmother, IMDb reported. “Wilford’s mother was of half Danish descent, with her other roots being Welsh, English, German, and Swiss-German,” the site said.
Brimley’s first wife of more than 40 years, actress Lynne Brimley, died in 2000, IMDb reported. The New York Times confirmed that he had at least three sons with Lynne. Brimley married Beverly Berry in 2007.
According to IMDb, Brimley was spent three years in the Aleutian Islands after he enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Korean Conflict. The site described Brimley as a renaissance man: a real estate broker, farmer, rodeo rider, blacksmith, “talented jazz singer” and stuntman. Once he became an actor, the site reported that Brimley was also a jokester, putting whoopee cushion pranks during the filming of “Cocoon: The Return.”
2. Brimley Became A Household Name During His Appearance On The Waltons
According to IMDb, he started out as a stuntman in Westerns during the 1960s, which he did under the name Anthony Brimley and he was also a bodyguard for Howard Hughes. But he didn’t become famous until featuring as Walton Mountain resident Horace Brimley in a recurring role on the The Waltons.
The Waltons was a drama TV show focused on a rural Virginia family and their life during the Great Depression and World War II, according to IMDb. The show ran from 1971-1981, and Brimley was featured on the series for 10 episodes between 1974 and 1977.
Before that, he was featured in the TV series True Grit (1969), Lawman (1971), Kung Fu (1975) and The Oregon Trail (1976-77). After The Waltons, he went on to star in more than 60 films and TV movies; some of his most famous film roles include Cocoon, The Natural, and The Thing.
Awww Wilford Brimley. Our favorite warm, good guy, purveyor of truth and reason. A man you always trusted when watching him work. I met him a few times. A really nice human and great actor RIP pic.twitter.com/V6xKjmBVa6
— Barbara Crampton (@barbaracrampton) August 2, 2020
His death was mourned by many others on Twitter who remembered him as an excellent character actor and Hollywood icon.
3. Brimley Was The Face Of Quaker Oats
With his tagline, “It’s the right thing to do,” Brimley’s face became inseparable from the brand during the 1980s.
“Here’s a bowl of steaming Quaker oatmeal,” he would say. “I can’t think of a healthier way to start the day; it costs you one nickel and four pennies.”
“It stays with you and helps keep you rolling all morning,” he said in another. “If you start eating Quaker oatmeal every day, it can help bring your cholesterol down,” he promised in yet another advertisement.
You can read more about Brimley’s role in the Quaker Oats commercials here.
4. Brimley Was An Advocate for Diabetes Management
Brimley was featured in a series of commercials during the 1990s raising awareness about diabetes, which the actor was diagnosed with in 1979, TMZ reported.
In a video, Brimley described the symptoms he had experienced:
I had an unquenchable thirst, my tongue felt like a horseshoe rash. I was losing my vision, I was losing my energy. I was getting up every 15 or 20 minutes all through the night, so I wasn’t getting any rest. I was scared – a man doesn’t like to admit he was scared, but I truly was. I wasn’t afraid to die, I knew that was coming to all of us. But what I was afraid of is that I might have to live a long time feeling how I felt, and I really wasn’t interested in that.
In 2008, Brimley was honored by The American Diabetes Association for his lifetime of advocacy, according to Binson’s Home Health Care Centers. Of the partnership, Brimley said, “I understand the difficulties associated with diabetes first hand, from finding the best meters, dealing with Medicare and insurance companies and we’ll use my ‘no nonsense’ approach when explaining the benefits of Binson’s products and services.”
The New York Times reported that his diabetes commercials were so popular that John Goodman parodied it on “Saturday Night Live.”
5. Brimley Died After Suffering A Kidney Illness
Actor Wilford Brimley had been sick for two months with a kidney ailment, according to his agent. He was 85.
— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 2, 2020
According to TMZ, Brimley had spent time in an intensive care unit for several days, feeling ill and waiting on dialysis. He eventually died at his home in Utah.
It’s unclear whether he was sick from complications due to his diabetes. However, according to Medline Plus, diabetes can lead to long-term kidney damage called diabetic nephropathy, which the site reported, “begins long before you have symptoms.”
You can read more about his cause of death here.