Frank “Pancho” Willmarth was born right here in Barrington in 1906. After attending the University of Missouri as a journalism major and writing for a humorous newspaper during his time at the university, Frank headed west with hopes of pursuing a career where he could put his artistic talent to use. His travels took him all over the United States where he would sketch the people and the places that surrounded him where ever he was.
The first sketch he sold was after a football game in Salt Lake City, when his date never showed up he decided to sketch various aspects of the game and sold them to a local newspaper for a dollar. He was now a paid artist…. Frank’s true success would be realized in California.
Though still travelling throughout the state to sketch caricatures at fairs, carnivals, vacation spots and college campuses, his first major opportunity came in Los Angeles. Frank was a very kind and likeable man who got along with most people he met his sense of humor was contagious. This incidentally led to a great many connections, and an opportunity was given to Frank to sketch the who’s who in Hollywood for the Brown Derby Restaurant.
The Derby’s walls were lined with sketches of famous celebrities that would frequent the restaurant during the golden age of Hollywood. A great deal of the Brown Derby’s caricatures were done by Frank himself, which allowed him to meet some of the nation’s biggest stars.
His first job for the derby was to sketch Mae West and Rocky Marciano. Later on in his career he would be hired by the San Francisco Press club to sketch the club’s many guests who were not only Hollywood celebrities, but foreign diplomats, U.S. presidents, famous authors, and the occasional astronaut or FBI agent. Frank had the opportunity to get to know some of the world’s greatest individuals.
After an amazingly interesting career, Frank would eventually settle down with his wife Gertrude and their four children in an old mining town in Sierra County called Downieville where Frank was a columnist writing humorous articles for the Mountain Messenger, a local newspaper. Frank lived out the rest of his days surrounded by his loving family and comforted by the memories and remarkable stories he had accumulated throughout his 96 years on Earth. Frank died in 2002 but this exhibit aims at resurrecting the man known as “Pancho”.
For more information, call 847.381.1730