Rudy Boesch, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and contestant on the first season of CBS’ “Survivor” died on Friday at the age of 91.
Boesch died in hospice care in Virginia Beach, Va., according to Fox News. Boesch had struggled with Alzheimer’s disease before he passed.
According to a Friday statement from the SEAL Veterans Foundation posted to Facebook, Boesch had served in the Navy from 1944 to 1990.
“It is with a broken heart that we inform you that Master Chief Rudy Boesch passed away last night. Master Chief was a legend in the SEAL and Special Operations community,” the SEAL Veterans Foundation statement said.
Boesch enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and became one of the first SEALs in 1962, soon after the special operations force formed that year. Boesch served two combat tours in Vietnam and earned the Bronze Star for heroism.
Boesch completed a 45-year military career before he retired from the Navy in 1990, at the rank of master chief petty officer.
In his retirement, Boesch was reportedly recognized as “Chief SEAL” or “Bullfrog,” identifying him as the longest-serving SEAL serving on Active Duty. He continued to serve on the board of directors for the UDT SEAL Association, even after his retirement from the Navy.
Steve Gonzalez, the director of the SEAL Veterans Foundation told Fox, “He was a legend in the SEAL teams long before ‘Survivor.'”
Boesch eventually joined the debut cast of the “Survivor” CBS reality television show in 2000. He was 72-years-old at the time he joined the show and became a fan favorite, known for his “no-nonsense” attitude.
While on the first season of the show, Boesch formed a friendship with fellow contestant Richard Hatch.
Ours was an interesting bond, Dear Rudy! You and I helped open minds and undermine predjudces. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!
— Richard Hatch (@HatchRichard) November 2, 2019
Hatch went on to win the season, while Boesch took third place.
The SEAL was so liked that he returned to the show’s eighth season, “Survivor: All Stars.”
Jeff Probst, the executive producer of the reality show on Saturday tweeted a statement in Boesch’s memory.
“He is one is the most iconic and adored players of all time,” Probst said.
The Survivor family has lost a legend. Rudy Boesch passed at the age of 91.
He played in the first season of Survivor at the age of 72. He is one is the most iconic and adored players of all time.
And he served our country as a 45-year Navy SEAL.
Rudy is a true American hero. pic.twitter.com/IJxELbcthH
— Jeff Probst (@JeffProbst) November 3, 2019
Marjorie Thomas, Boesch’s wife of 53 years, died in 2008. Boesch is survived by his three daughters.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been disclosed at this time.