Rudy Boesch has died at age 91. The Survivor fan-favorite passed away on Friday, November 1, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, Us Weekly confirmed.
Boesch, a U.S. Navy vet, competed on the first season of Survivor: Borneo at age 72 and came in third place. He returned for Survivor: All-Stars (season 8) at 75, but was the second contestant sent home. He holds the title of oldest person to compete on the CBS series.
After the series wrapped, he went on to do many other appearances. In 2001, he published The Book of Rudy: The Wit and Wisdom of Rudy Boesch; in 2002, he hosted Combat Missions.
Boesch enlisted in the Navy at 17 in 1945. Seven years later, he was selected as one of 50 officers to join the first SEAL (Sea-Air-Land) Team TWO. He completed two combat tours in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970 and earned the Bronze Star Medal. He retired from the Navy after 45 years of active service in August 1990.
In 2010, he was inducted into the Commando Hall of Honor at MacDill Air Force Base. Additionally he hosted an annual charity event, Rudy Run SEAL Challenge on Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, to raise money for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.
“I just hate getting old – it’s slowing me down,” Boesch said in a 2014 interview with The Virginian Pilot. “I don’t jog anymore ‘cuz my knees hurt and stuff like that. I walk a lot and I am really slowing down walking.”
While he loved Survivor, he always reminded his fans that his first love was the Navy. “The best life in the world. Survivor was nothing compared to what I did, and it’s just that way,” he said in the interview. At the time, he also revealed that he’d been living in the same house than he had for 65 years; his wife died in 2005 but his three daughters and grandchildren lived close by.