John Schnabel (1920 - 2016)

John Schnabel, an Alaskan gold miner and family patriarch on the reality TV show “Gold Rush,” has died, according to multiple news sources. He was 96.

Schnabel, who owned a claim to the Big Nugget mine in Porcupine Creek, Alaska, died March 18 in his sleep, according to his family.

“Thank you all for the kind words,” wrote John Schabel’s grandson, Peter Schnabel, in a Twitter message. “John lived a great life and was one of a kind. I am glad the world got to see an amazing man.”

The show, which airs on the Discovery Channel cable network, is currently in its sixth season. The first season, titled “Gold Rush – Alaska,” aired on the channel in December 2010. It follows the escapades of a group of miners who initially took up the mining pursuit because they had lost their jobs in Sandy, Oregon.

During the show’s second season, when the show’s name was shortened to “Gold Rush,” John Schnabel decided to step down and give the Big Nugget mine to grandson Parker Schnabel.

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The elder Schnabel was born Feb. 11, 1920, the son of a wheat farmer in Kansas. During the Great Depression, the farm was lost, and his father moved to Alaska. John Schnabel stayed behind, only moving to Haines, Alaska, in 1939.

He didn’t buy a claim to the mine until 1984. Schnabel bought the claim as a way to stay active – doctors’ orders – after undergoing heart surgery. He was still active in the mine in early 2014.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather, and overall family man,” the Schnabel family told People in a statement to the magazine. “He was a true legend, and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”

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