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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Wilford Brimley, who worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included “Cocoon,” “The Natural” and “The Firm,” has died. He was 85.

Brimley’s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died Saturday morning in a Utah hospital.

He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments, she said.

The mustached Brimley was a familiar face for a number of roles, often playing characters like his grizzled baseball manager in “The Natural” opposite Robert Redford’s bad-luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford in “Brubaker” and “The Electric Horseman.”

Brimley’s best-known work was in “Cocoon,” in which he was part of a group of seniors who discover an alien pod that rejuvenates them. The 1985 Ron Howard film won two Oscars, including a supporting actor honor for Don Ameche.

Brimley also starred in “Cocoon: The Return,” a 1988 sequel.

For years he was pitchman for Quaker Oats and in recent years appeared in a series of diabetes spots that turned him at one point into a social media sensation.

“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” Bensky said in a statement. “He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.”

Barbara Hershey, who met Brimley on 1995′s “Last of the Dogmen,” called him “a wonderful man and actor. … He always made me laugh.”

Though never nominated for an Oscar or Emmy Award, Brimley amassed an impressive list of credits. In 1993’s John Grisham adaptation “The Firm,” Brimley starred opposite Tom Cruise as a tough-nosed investigator who deployed ruthless tactics to keep his law firm’s secrets safe.

John Woo, who directed Brimley as Uncle Douvee in 1993′s “Hard Target,” told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the part was “the main great thing from the film. I was overjoyed making those scenes and especially working with Wilford Brimley.”

A Utah native who grew up around horses, Brimley spent two decades traveling around the West and working at ranches and race tracks. He drifted into movie work during the 1960s, riding in such films as “True Grit,” and appearing in TV series such as “Gunsmoke.”

He forged a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to seek more prominent acting roles, according to a biography prepared by Turner Classic Movies.

Brimley, who never trained as an actor, saw his career take off after he won an important role as a nuclear power plant engineer in “The China Syndrome.”

“Training? I’ve never been to acting classes, but I’ve had 50 years of training,” he said in a 1984 Associated Press interview. “My years as an extra were good background for learning about camera techniques and so forth. I was lucky to have had that experience; a lot of newcomers don’t.”

“Basically my method is to be honest,” Brimley said told AP. “The camera photographs the truth — not what I want it to see, but what it sees. The truth.”

Brimley had a recurring role as a blacksmith on “The Waltons” and the 1980s prime-time series “Our House.”

Another side of the actor was his love of jazz. As a vocalist, he made albums including “This Time the Dream’s On Me” and “Wilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio.”

In 1998, he opposed an Arizona referendum to ban cockfighting, saying that he was “trying to protect a lifestyle of freedom and choice for my grandchildren.”

In recent years, Brimley’s pitchwork for Liberty Mutual had turned him into an internet sensation for his drawn out pronunciation of diabetes as “diabeetus.” He owned the pronunciation in a tweet that drew hundreds of thousands of likes earlier this year.

Brimley is survived by his wife Beverly and three sons.

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Fort Hood soldier dies in boating accident, marking 5th soldier death within months

KILLEEN, Texas -- A Fort Hood soldier died in a boating accident, weeks after another soldier was found unresponsive in the same area on Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

The body of 24-year-old Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas was recovered on Aug. 2, officials said in a release.

According to Fort Hood, Hernandezvargas, a New York native, joined the Army in 2017 as an Automatic Rifleman. He had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division since December 2017.

He was also a decorated soldier, receiving multiple honors including the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon.

"The Black Knight family is heartbroken by the loss of Specialist Francisco Hernandezvargas. Our hearts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time," said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of 1st Bn. 5th Cav. Regt.

Armstrong said Hernandezvargas also served abroad in Romania and Korea.

While his death is under investigation, this also marks more tragedy involving Fort Hood soldiers.

In July, U.S. Army officials said they found the body of 26-year-old Pvt. Mejhor Morta near the post. Morta was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which is a reservoir located in Bell County and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Fort Worth District.

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On June 21, officials had discovered skeletal remains in a field in Killeen, just over 10 miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which were subsequently identified as 24-year-old missing Fort Hood soldier Gregory Morales. U.S. Army officials have said they suspect foul play in his death.

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Family of fallen soldier wants him buried with military honors

Then on July 1, U.S. Army officials found more human remains, which were later identified as 20-year-old missing Fort Hood soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, near the Leon River in Bell County, about 20 miles east of Fort Hood. Guillen had been missing since April 22.

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On May 18, Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, 27, was found shot to death in Harker Heights next to his burned Jeep. Rosecrans joined the U.S. Army in 2018 and was eventually sent to Fort Hood. His father, Thomas Berg Sr., has been working with the Harker Heights Police Department on his son's murder.

Officials have not said any of the deaths are related.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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