Wilford Brimley, Star of Cocoon and Quaker Oats Commercials, Dead at 85

Actor Wilford Brimley, famous for his signature moustache and gruff love of oatmeal, has died of renal issues at 85.

Brimley started out in showbiz by riding horses as a stunt man in Westerns in the 1960’s. He didn’t land his first television role until the age of 40, joining popular television series The Waltons as Horace Brimley.  

His first film appearance came in 1979’s The China Syndrome beside Jack Lemmon. Brimley finally broke out in the early eighties with powerful supporting roles as a biologist in The Thing, opposite Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies, and as Pop Fischer in The Natural.  

At 50, Brimley was cast in his first lead role, starring in Ron Howard’s Cocoon, as a geriatric man who discovers a mystically revitalizing pool in his retirement home. He went on to play memorable parts beside Tom Cruise in The Firm, as Kevin Kline’s father in 1997’s In & Out, and supported Hugh Grant in Did You Hear About the Morgans?   

After being diagnosed with diabetes, Brimley became an advocate for disease awareness and the spokesman for Liberty Medical’s national commercials. He also became the very serious face of Quaker Oats, appearing in the brand’s “It’s the right thing to do” campaign.  

Fans and co-workers posted tributes on social media. Our House co-star Shannen Doherty said Brimley gave her a horse and taught her how to ski. “He was in fact like a grandpa to me for a very long time,” she posted. “He was talented and will be missed.” 

The Natural co-star Barbra Hershey posted, “He was a wonderful man and actor.”

Betty Buckley, his Tender Mercies co-star, said that Brimley was a gift to work with.

An MLB Network contributor tweeted: “How I look when I realize Wilford Brimley was only 49 years old when “The Natural” was released.”

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