Rudy Boesch, a retired tough-as-nails Navy SEAL and fan favorite on the inaugural season of “Survivor,” has died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 91.
He died peacefully Friday night in hospice care in Virginia Beach, Virginia, surrounded by loved ones, said Steve Gonzalez, director of operations for the Seal Veterans Foundation.
U.S. Navy SEAL Rudy Boesch has tragically passed at 91 years old after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to Rudy’s family and friends. He will not be forgotten. 🔱🙏🏻 #LLTB pic.twitter.com/OpalfrFMll
— Forged® (@forgedclothing) November 2, 2019
Boesch joined the Navy in 1944 and became one of the first SEALs in 1962. He served two combat tours during the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star for heroism, and retired from the Navy in 1990 as a master chief petty officer.
Before his retirement, Boesch was honored as “Chief SEAL,” or “Bullfrog.” The title marks his time as the longest-serving SEAL still on active duty. He remained involved after he left the Navy, serving on the board of directors of the UDT Seal Association.
“He was a legend in the Seal teams long before ‘Survivor,'” Gonzalez said. “Rudy was beloved by all and will be deeply missed.”
It is with profound sadness I report my friend, Rudy (Boesch), passed away Friday, after a valiant struggle, with Alzheimer’s disease. Rudy served 45 years as a Navy SEAL. Oldest cast member (72) Survivor, Seasons 1 (75) and “All-Stars. RIP, Rudy! I’m gonna to miss you!
— Joe Del Campo (@excalintel1) November 2, 2019
At 72, Boesch was the oldest contestant ever on the CBS show, taking third place the first year, 2000, on “Survivor: Borneo.” He proved so popular as a no-nonsense but loveable character that he was invited back for the eighth season, “Survivor: All Stars.”
During the first season, Boesch was a close ally of the winner, Richard Hatch.
Boesch’s wife of 53 years, Marjorie Thomas, died in 2008. They have three daughters.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced Saturday.