Torch Goes Out: Beloved Original 'Survivor' Competitor Rudy Boesch Dies At 91
Rudy Boesch, one of the original contestants on Survivor, died on November 1 following a years-long battle with Alzheimer's disease, as Us Weekly confirmed.
The 91-year-old competitor was cast on the show's first season in 2000 and came in third place.
Despite losing the final challenge, Boesch's tough personality and fan base also earned him a spot on the eighth season of the popular CBS reality show, though his tenure wasn't nearly as long as the first time. He was the second person voted out of the house, but holds the title of the oldest to compete in the series.
Prior to his run on Survivor, which started when he was 72 years old, Boesch served in the navy during World War II. He became one of the first Navy SEALS in 1962 and earned a Bronze Star for heroic action during the Vietnam War. After 45 years of service, he retired in 1990.
Amid serving the country, Boesch started a family. In 1955, he wed Marjorie Thomas, with whom he remained married until her 2005 death. The two had three children, who survive the Survivor star.
Years after his run in the US Navy, Boesch remained close to the service. He was honored with an induction to the Commando Hall of Honor at MacDill Air Force Base in 2010. He also hosted the Rudy Run SEAL Challenge on Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, to raise money for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.
Some of his other accomplishments include a published book, The Book of Rudy: The Wit and Wisdom of Rudy Boesch, and other television appearances.
Following the tragic news, Survivor alum reacted to Boesch's passing.
Richard Hatch, the openly gay winner of season one and Boesch’s closest friendon the show tweeted, “Ours was an interesting bond, Dear Rudy! You and I helped open minds and undermine prejudices sic. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!”
Hatch elaborated on his sentiments with a statement to PEOPLE.
“Rudy Boesch and I both served our country in the military: he in the Navy, and I in the Army,” Hatch explained to PEOPLE. “But Rudy also served our country as an example of honesty and open-mindedness by respectfully engaging and aligning with me, an openly homosexual man, to play Survivor on the world stage.”
“I grew to love that cantankerous man and his family,” Hatch continued. “We are better people for having known him, and he will be sorely missed. I wish his family peace in their grieving his loss.”
Survivor: All Stars alum Rob Cesternino remembered Boesch for his “unique combination of brutal honesty and a razor-sharp wit” and Tina Wessson, the Survivor: Australia winner who also appeared on Survivor: All Stars, confirmed his passion for his wife and the military.
Funeral arrangements for Boesch have not yet been announced.