Wilford Brimley

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Anthony Wilford Brimley

Current Location:: Greybull, Big Horn County, Wyoming, United States
Birthdate: (82)
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Wilford Charles Brimley and Lola Samantha Nelson
Husband of <private> Brimley
Widower of Lynne Brimley
Father of <private> Brimley; <private> Brimley; <private> Brimley and <private> Brimley
Brother of <private> Brimley; <private> Brimley; <private> Stevens (Brimley); <private> Schiess (Brimley) and <private> Brimley
Half brother of Donald Brimley; Dorothy Brimley and <private> Brimley

Occupation: Actor
Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:
view all 17

Immediate Family

    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Brimley
    • <private> Stevens (Brimley)
    • <private> Schiess (Brimley)

About Wilford Brimley

Anthony Wilford Brimley, born September 27, 1934, is an American actor. He has appeared in such films as The China Syndrome, Cocoon, The Thing and The Firm. He had a recurring role on the 1970s television series The Waltons. Brimley has also done television commercials, including advertisements for Quaker Oats and Liberty Medical, the latter being noted for Brimley's way of pronouncing "diabetes".

Early life

Brimley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where his father worked as a real estate broker. Prior to his career in acting, Brimley dropped out of high school to serve in the United States Marine Corps, where he served in the Aleutian Islands for three years. He also worked as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes, ranch hand, wrangler, and blacksmith. He then began shoeing horses for film and television. He began acting in the 1960s as a riding extra in Westerns and a stunt man at the urging of his friend, actor Robert Duvall.

Brimley married his wife, Lynne, on July 6, 1956. They had four sons together, James Charles, John Michael, William Carmen, and Lawrence Dean, and several grandchildren. Brimley and his wife were married until her death in June of 2000.


Brimley was cast in the popular 1970s television series The Waltons as Walton's Mountain resident Horace Brimley, in seven appearances from 1974 through 1977.

Brimley became famous later in life for appearing in such films as The Hotel New Hampshire, John Carpenter's The Thing, and Cocoon. In 2001, he starred in the Turner Network Television film Crossfire Trail with Tom Selleck. He had an important role in The China Syndrome. He often plays a gruff or stodgy old man, notably on the 1980s drama series Our House. His first characterization was in Absence of Malice, in which he played a small but key role as a curmudgeonly, outspoken James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General. He expanded on this characterization as the world-weary manager of a slumping baseball team in The Natural, a film in which his friend Duvall appeared as an antagonistic sportswriter.

Brimley was cast in the 1983 film Tender Mercies due to the urging of Robert Duvall, who was not getting along well with director Bruce Beresford and wanted "somebody down here that's on my side, somebody that I can relate to." Beresford felt Brimley was too old for the part, but eventually agreed to the casting. Brimley, like Duvall, clashed with the director; during one instance when Beresford tried to advise Brimley on how Harry would behave, Duvall recalled Brimley responding: "Now look, let me tell you something, I'm Harry. Harry's not over there, Harry's not over here. Until you fire me or get another actor, I'm Harry, and whatever I do is fine 'cause I'm Harry."

In a change from his "good guy" roles such as those in Our House, he played William Devasher, the ominous head of security for Bendini, Lambert & Locke in the Tom Cruise film The Firm (1993), based on the novel by John Grisham.

Brimley has frequently appeared in commercials, notably a series of commercials for Quaker Oats Oatmeal throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The Quaker commercials were famous for their slogan: "It's the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it." Brimley is also known for appearing in numerous television advertisements for Liberty Medical, a company specializing in home delivery of medical products such as diabetes testing supplies.

Brimley has been described as "a fine singer with a warm, rich voice". In 1993, Brimley sang with the Cal State Northridge Jazz Band for a concert benefiting the college's Jazz Endowment Scholarship Fund; in 2004, he released This Time, The Dream's On Me, an album of jazz standards named after the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer-penned title track.

Personal life

Brimley is a Mormon. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1979, and he began working to raise awareness of the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) honored Brimley in 2008 with an award to recognize his lifetime of service. The ADA presented the award to him at the Port St. Lucie headquarters of Liberty Medical on December 19, 2008. He has visited Veterans Administration hospitals and communities to advise patients on how to manage their diseases.

Brimley is an activist, paying from his own funds for advertisements to have Utah allow horse-race gambling. He spoke against the banning of cockfighting in New Mexico on the basis of his support of individual rights. Brimley also spoke at a 1998 Phoenix rally opposing an Arizona ballot proposition to ban cockfighting. Brimley argued that a ban could lead to efforts to restrict use of hunting dogs, which opponents of cockfighting called a distraction from the issue. Brimley said he travels to Arizona to attend cockfights. Brimley enjoys playing poker and has played in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Brimley lent his support to John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In the days leading up to his selection for vice president, McCain jokingly stated that he would pick Brimley: "He's a former Marine and great guy and he's older than I am, so that might work."

Brimley has resided in Greybull, Wyoming, since 2006.



Year Title Role Notes

1968 Bandolero! Stuntman


1969 True Grit Stuntman


1971 Lawman Stuntman


1976 The Oregon Trail Ludlow Television film

1979 The China Syndrome Ted Spindler

1979 The Electric Horseman Farmer

1980 Brubaker Rogers

1980 Borderline USBP Agent Scooter Jackson

1981 Absence of Malice Assistant U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells

1982 Death Valley The Sheriff

1982 The Thing Dr. Blair

1983 Tender Mercies Harry


1983 10 to Midnight Captain Maline

1983 High Road to China Bradley Tozer

1983 Tough Enough Bill Long

1984 Harry & Son Tom Keach

1984 The Hotel New Hampshire Iowa Bob

1984 The Stone Boy George Jansen

1984 The Natural Pop Fisher

1984 Country Otis

1984 Terror in the Aisles Archive footage

1985 Cocoon Benjamin Luckett

1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins Agency Director Harold Smith

1985 Shadows on the Wall Theater Owner

1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor Noa Briqualon

1985 Murder in Space Dr. Andrew McAllister

1986 Jackals Sheriff Mitchell

1986 Act of Vengeance Tony Boyle Television film

1987 End of the Line Will Haney

1988 Cocoon: The Return Benjamin Luckett

1989 Eternity King/Eric

1992 Where the Red Fern Grows: Part II Grandpa Will

1993 The Firm William Devasher

1993 Hard Target Uncle Douvee

1994 Heaven Sent Security Guard

1995 Mutant Species Devro


1995 Last of the Dogmen Narrator Uncredited

1996 My Fellow Americans Joe Hollis

1997 In & Out Frank Brackett

1997 Lunker Lake The Storyteller

1998 A Place to Grow Jake

1998 Progeny Dr. David Wetherly

1998 Chapter Perfect Chief Hawkins

1998 All My Friends Are Cowboys Charlie

1998 Summer of the Monkeys Grandpa Sam Ferrans

2000 Comanche

2001 PC and the Web

2001 Brigham City Stu

2001 The Ballad of Lucy Whipple Deputy Sheriff Ambrose Scraggs

2001 Crossfire Trail Joe Gill

2002 Resurrection Mary Morty

2002 The Round and Round Governor

2003 The Road Home Coach Weaver

2009 The Path of the Wind Harry Caldwell

2009 Did You Hear About the Morgans? Earl Granger


Year Title Role Notes

1974–1977 The Waltons Horace Brimley 8 episodes

1977 The Oregon Trail 2 episodes

1986 Our House Gus Witherspoon

1992 The Boys of Twilight Bill Huntoon

1995 Walker, Texas Ranger Burt Mueller Episode: "War Zone"

1997 Seinfeld United States Postmaster General Henry Atkins Episode: "The Junk Mail"


Wilford Brimley Biography. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 22, 2009.

Wilford Brimley Biography. Mahalo.com. Retrieved 2014-03-02.

Wilford Brimley Biography. FilmReference.com. Retrieved June 22, 2009.

Wilford Brimley Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2014-03-02.

Obituary: Lynne Bagley Brimley". Deseret News. June 17, 2000. Retrieved December 9, 2013.

Canby, Vincent (March 9, 1984). "'Hotel New Hampshire' From Best Seller". The New York Times.


Wilford Brimley at the Internet Movie Database


Absence of Malice at the Internet Movie Database


Bruce Beresford (actor), Robert Duvall (actor), Gary Hertz (director) (April 16, 2002). Miracles & Mercies.

West Hollywood, California: Blue Underground. Retrieved February 1, 2008.


The Firm at the Internet Movie Database


Fowler, James E. (February 26, 1993). "Actor Feeling His Oats as Singer : Wilford Brimley will perform with a jazz band at a benefit concert Saturday for a new CSUN scholarship fund". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011.

Wilford Brimley: This Time the Dream's on Me. CDTracks. 2004. Retrieved 2014-03-03.


Abanes, Richard (2009). "Chapter Two: Mormons in Movieland". Religion of the Stars: What Hollywood Believes and How It Affects You. Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 9780764206481. OCLC 263988104.


Inspiration And Expert Advice: Famous People: Wilford Brimley Biography. dlife.com.[dead link]


Blandford, Laurie K. (December 19, 2008). "Actor Wilford Brimley surprised with award from American Diabetes Association in Port St. Lucie". The St. Lucie News-Tribune (TCPalm). Retrieved June 22, 2009.


Barnes, Peter (February 23, 2005). "Cockfighting still legal in New Mexico. N.M. Panel Rejects Cockfighting Ban Plan.". AllCreatures.org. Retrieved June 22, 2009.


Molloy, Tim (November 1, 1998). "Wilford Brimley endorses cockfighting". Today's News-Herald. Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-03-02.

Wilford Brimley Biography". perfectpeople.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.

Event #27 - WSOP World Championship - No Limit Hold'em (Day 4) Results & Report". pokerpages.com. May 14, 2001. Retrieved 2014-03-03.


Sabloff, Nick (January 5, 2008). "McCain's Unveils His Answer To Chuck Norris". The Huffington Post.

Carolina Decides. Time Warner Cable News North Carolina. August 28, 2008. Retrieved 2014-03-03.


Matray, Margaret (December 26, 2009). "Making a Christmas Connection". Billings Gazette. Retrieved 2014-03-03.

SOURE: Wikipedia

The following information is from the website IMDB:

Born September 27, 1934, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Birth Name: Anthony Wilford Brimley

Height: 5'-8"

He was a farmer and rodeo rider who, after gaining weight, became a blacksmith and then a film actor.

Was a bodyguard to Howard Hughes. He is diabetic. Enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean conflict and spent three years in the Aleutian Islands. Known to loosen up cast mates with small practical jokes between takes. for example, while filming Cocoon: The Return (1988), Courtney Cox was caught off guard by whoopee cushion pranks. Known for his Quaker Oats commercials. Had a recurring role on The Waltons (1971). At the prodding of series star, Ralph Waite, Brimley became a charter member of Waite's Los Angeles Actors Theater.

A controversial activist, he paid from his own funds for ads to have Utah allow horse-race gambling, and he was actively opposed to the banning of cockfighting. He has campaigned in Arizona and New Mexico against laws banning cockfighting.

Has diabetes and has served as a spokesperson for the diabetes testing-supplies company Liberty Medical. His first acting roles were in the 60s as a riding extra/stuntman in westerns. At that time he used the name Anthony (Tony) Brimley.

Father was a real estate broker.

Was often mistaken for the trolley conductor in the 1991 Hardee's (now Carl's Junior) TV commercials for the Frisco Burger.

Lives in Greybull, Wyoming , and likes to eat at the Uptown Cafe in Greybull. [June 2008]

Endorsed U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for President, during the New Hampshire Republican primary. [January 2008]

Announces radio adverts (U.S.) for Liberty Medical, a distributor of diabetes-detection equipment. [May 2001]

Wilford's paternal grandfather was an English immigrant, born in Blackrod, Lancashire, while Wilford's paternal grandmother's parents were Scottish, from Glasgow. Wilford's mother was of half Danish descent, with her other roots being Welsh, English, and German.

Personal Quotes (2):

Look, I like people very much. I'm not very good with people, but that doesn't mean I don't like them. I do like them. Because we actors are on that great big screen and so many people see us, we become familiar. People speak to us as if they've known us all our lives. That just tickles me to death.

I just try to be myself. (on his acting technique)

From an interview of Wilford Brimley on www.vulture.com:

Last night we spoke with Cocoon star, Quaker Oats spokesman, and proud 75-year-old grumpypants Wilford Brimley as he promoted Did You Hear About the Morgans?. In it, he plays Earl (could his character name be any more perfect?), the cantankerous owner of the only restaurant in Ray, Wyoming, where Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker hide out after having witnessed a murder. The conversation went pretty much as you'd expect. Get ready to be curmudgeoned!

What did you teach Sarah and Hugh about the country? Nothing.

How was SJP with a gun? You know, she's a nice, nice lady. I enjoyed my time with her very much.

Did you show her how to handle livestock? You know, I wasn't around when they did that.

What were you around for? Uh, not much.

How would you survive if you were stranded in the city? Oh, easy. There's nice people here, and a lot more of 'em.

What do you do when you come to New York? Well, we eat good food in good restaurants. You've got the best food in the world here. And I visit friends that mean a whole lot to me. You know, we live on a ranch in a small Wyoming town. We don't live on Mars.

The following biography is from the website Turner Classic Movies:

The actor of choice to play gruff, but lovable grandfathers, old salts and dispensers of sage advice in the 1980s, Wilford Brimley was a former real-life ranch hand who worked his way up the Hollywood food chain from stunt rider and extra to popular character actor and television pitchman. On the advice of friend Robert Duvall, Brimley set his course down the acting path and earned his big break in "The China Syndrome" (1979). By the mid-1980s, Brimley was adding old-fashioned grit and homespun charm to high-profile pictures like "The Natural" (1984), "Cocoon" (1985) and "The Firm" (1993), as well as on the primetime series "Our House" (NBC, 1986-88). His profile lessened in subsequent years, though his avuncular presence was well used in a series of ads for Quaker Oats and the Liberty Medical supply company, keeping fresh his distinctly whiskered visage to audiences.

Born on Sept. 27, 1934 in Salt Lake City, UT, Brimley was the son of a real estate broker, who moved the family to California when his son was six years old. Brimley dropped out of high school to join the Marines during the Korean War, serving three years in the Aleutian Islands. After an honorable discharge, Brimley worked as a ranch hand, wrangler and blacksmith throughout the Western states, then spent three years as bodyguard to Howard Hughes. When he returned to California, he found work at stables that provided horses for film and television projects, but soon after lit out again to work as a cowboy in Idaho. He eventually returned to Los Angeles to find work as a riding extra and stunt man in Hollywood Westerns like "Bandolero!" (1968).

During this period, Brimley struck a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to become an actor. Brimley eventually logged enough hours as a stunt man to earn his Screen Actors Guild card and soon landed small parts in "True Grit" (1969) and "Lawman" (1971). Brimley was frequently credited as "A. Wilford Brimley" in his early roles, a trend that continued until the mid-1980s. In 1974, Brimley began a recurring role on "The Waltons" (CBS, 1972-1981) as town blacksmith Horace Brimley, which lasted until 1977. His dedication to his craft impressed cast member Ralph Waite, who invited Brimley to join and train with his Los Angeles Actors Theater. Soon after, Brimley graduated to larger character roles, many of which emphasized his skill with gruff blue-color types. He earned his first spate of solid reviews as Ted Spindler, a foreman at a nuclear facility who knows that his plant suffers from safety issues, in "The China Syndrome" (1979). The film's finale afforded Brimley an emotional soliloquy which caught the eye of numerous producers and casting agents.

Brimley was soon riding high as a character actor in Hollywood features throughout the 1980s. Robert Redford employed him on several occasions, first as a farmer in "The Electric Horseman" (1979) and later in "Brubaker" (1980), before giving Brimley one of his best roles as the crusty manager of a struggling baseball farm team in Barry Levinson's "The Natural" (1984). Other solid performances came as a tough assistant attorney general in "Absence of Malice" (1981), a scientist who is driven mad by an alien presence in John Carpenter's cult classic "The Thing" (1982) and the no-nonsense manager of Robert Duvall's ex-wife (Betty Buckley) in "Tender Mercies" (1983).

Brimley's biggest hit came as one of a trio of senior citizens (alongside Don Ameche and Hume Cronyn) who discover that a hidden alien pod is also the fountain of youth in Ron Howard's "Cocoon" (1985). The role emphasized the gentler aspects of his screen persona and led to more tenderhearted roles, like the hermit who aids George Lucas' cuddly Ewoks in the TV feature "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor" (ABC, 1985). Brimley graduated to regular series work, playing kindly grandfather Gus Witherspoon, who dispenses wisdom to his daughter-in-law's children (Shannen Doherty and Chad Allen) on the well-regarded, but ultimately short-lived family series "Our House." Brimley also spun his newfound status as Hollywood's Favorite Curmudgeon into a series of television ads for Quaker Oats cereal, which reportedly surged in sales as a result of his appearance. The spots, which hinged on Brimley's admonition to eat the cereal because it was the "right thing to do and the tasty way to do it," were lampooned - often mercilessly - by television and radio comics.

When Brimley's popularity started to peter out in the early 1990s, he wisely shifted to playing stern heavies, like the security chief in "The Firm" (1993). After a supporting role in "My Fellow Americans" (1996), he enjoyed a brief comic turn as Kevin Kline's bewildered father in "In and Out" (1997). But for the most part, Brimley spent the remainder of his career appearing in television movies and independent features. In 2001, he returned to the stage in an off-Broadway production of the venerable play by Robert E. Sherwood, "The Petrified Forest." Brimley also enjoyed wide exposure from a series of ads for Liberty Medical, which sold supplies for testing diabetes on daytime television ads. Himself suffering from diabetes, Brimley became the company's official spokesperson in 1999. Like his ads for Quaker Oats, he found himself the target of numerous jibes and spoofs from comics, who fixated on his folksy pronunciation of the disease as "dya-beet-us."

The following interview with Wilford Brimley appeared in the Billings Gazette on December 26, 2009, and was written by Margaret Matray of the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune:

Making A Christmas Connection....Trip to Greybull to meet Wilford Brimley includes surprises:

We’re late. Two hours late.

Cutting through the Shoshone National Forest on U.S. Highway 14, the ground is wet with snow, it’s dark, and I have no cell phone service.

It’s taking much longer than I expected, and we almost hit a moose, and we’ve already stopped once to replace a tire.

What if we’re too late? What if he’s gone to sleep or won’t see us? Please, please don’t let anything else happen.

I’m going as fast as I can. If we can make it to Greybull by 6 p.m., I tell myself, it’ll be OK.

I’ve been waiting for this, given up on this, and then gotten excited about this all over again when I get a phone call and e-mail earlier in the day. Today, he’s home in Greybull, my last shot before Christmas. I’m going to see Wilford Brimley.

You’ll remember him for a variety of jobs: “The China Syndrome,” “Cocoon,” “The Natural,” “The Waltons,” “Our House,” Quaker Oats commercials, spokesman for Liberty Medical supplies, an advocate for diabetes awareness.

I remember him for something a little different.

This is how it went, every year:

My brother and I would pull out the book just before bed Christmas Eve. Ours was the 1988 Hallmark pop-up “The Night Before Christmas,” which unfolds like a stage. Sugarplum candies dance at the spin of a wheel, Santa flies up the chimney at the tug of a paper arrow.

We loved everything about it. The colors were bright, and it felt like you could live inside that house if you were just a bit smaller. Our grandparents had the same version. When we’d visit, we’d find their copy and flip through the pages, even out of season.

Christmas Eve was the only night we would listen to the cassette that came with, an audio recording of Wilford Brimley reading the story.

The tape made the story different, better than turning the pages alone at other times of the year. His voice was a smooth comfort, like it could be your grandpa reading to you, even though you knew it wasn’t.

It’s not that our Christmas memory is exceptional or any different than anyone elses. In fact, it’s pretty ordinary. Everyone’s got something: a fruitcake Grandma always makes, matching pajamas, etc.

It’s just that last year I moved 1,130 miles from where I grew up to Wyoming. And in the least-populated state in the nation, I’d find the one guy who made Christmas for us every year by reading a story that lasts no longer than seven minutes.

This is Brimley’s part of the country.

He was born in Utah, worked the family farm, then life went on. He worked throughout the Rocky Mountain region, coming to Wyoming as early as the 1940s.

I found out Brimley was a Wyoming resident in July. We got a press release at work about a parade for the National Day of the American Cowboy and 100th Old Timers Celebration in Hyattville. Attached was a photo of Brimley getting ready for the parade the previous year. I held on to the e-mail. Getting in touch might be a long shot.

Earlier this month, I contacted the co-chairperson for the event, explained my story and got Brimley’s information two days later.

It’s OK that we’re late. They let us in.

Wilford and Beverly Brimley came to Greybull three years ago. They raise cattle for slaughter on a ranch just east and live right downtown in a house that displays on the walls Brimley’s hunts: bobcat, elk, coyote, steer. (“ ‘That’s what happens when you jump the fence too many times.’ ” Beverly quotes him on that last one.)

He was looking to move from New Mexico, liked what he saw here, so he came.

Brimley will tell you he has spent time just about everywhere. He still acts when asked to, but he says he’d be OK if he never did it again.

“I’ve done everything you can think of and some you haven’t even heard of,” says Brimley, 75. “... I try to do what’s underneath me to do.”

I ask the man who’s made more than 70 film and television appearances (not including commercials) if he remembers the book.

He does, and he remembers it was a hit. People, not just me, remembered him for it. He thinks his three sons might have copies of the recording, too.

Then he tells me something else. Wilford Brimley, the guy I associate most with Christmas, doesn’t really care too much for the holiday.

His wife gets anxious about sending gifts and such, he says, but not him. He doesn’t get the fuss over a few days of giving. Coming out of the Depression, he doesn’t get all this overabundance.

“If you’re going to be a giver,” he says, “I think that should go on most of the time.”

I ask, then, if he tries to be a giver year-round.

Consciously? Probably not, he says.

But there are things he doesn’t tell you. His wife does.

Since moving here, the Brimleys created Hands Across the Saddle, a nonprofit designed to help anyone facing financial difficulties or unforeseen problems in the Big Horn Basin. It had its first event in July and has helped 15 families since. It has grown to 10 committee members across the basin, and all money goes directly to those who need it.

There was a need for this, so they did it.

“Would you do it if you could?” he tosses out.

Beverly will also tell you this: Every December for at least nine years, Wilford grows out a beard and travels to both Virginia and Florida to visit with children through Liberty Medical.

Brimley, the one who says he doesn’t care a whole lot about Christmas, plays Santa. He calls them his kids.

We talk some more, about how his grandkids always ask him to tell stories, and so he does.

“He can make a poem come to life,” says his wife, “but he won’t tell you that.”

“I think she’s done being interviewed, too,” Brimley says of this mushiness.

It’s getting later still, so we wrap up, exchange goodbyes and say thank you. This was everything I wanted to know.

He asks if this is my personal copy of the book sitting on the table. It is.

“Beverly, where’s my pen?”

He signs across the cover, adding a “Merry Christmas.”

And with that, the man who was Christmas to me, doesn’t like it himself, cares enough to be Santa but doesn’t mention it unless you talk to his wife, that man gets up, says goodbye one more time, and goes in the next room to watch TV.

Contact Margaret Matray at margaret.matray@trib.com or 307-266-0535.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Wilford Brimley's Timeline

September 27, 1934
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States