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Rudy Boesch (1928 – 2019), Navy SEAL was a “Survivor” fan favorite

Getty Images / CBS Photo Archive / Monty Brinton

After 45 years of military service, Boesch became the oldest contestant in "Survivor" history and a popular contestant in season one

Rudy Boesch was a former Navy SEAL who competed in “Survivor: Borneo” in 2000, coming in third place and becoming a popular fan favorite. At 72, Boesch was the oldest of the “Survivor” contestants that season. A Vietnam War veteran, Boesch drew on the survival skills he learned while serving in the jungle as he competed on “Survivor,” cooking for his tribe in “Rowdy Rudy’s Diner.” His persona on the show was a gruff military man prone to politically incorrect outbursts – these became known as “Rudyisms.” In 2004, Boesch competed in “Survivor: All Stars,” becoming the show’s oldest contestant ever at 75.

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Died: November 1, 2019 (Who else died on November 1?)

Details of death: Died at a hospice in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the age of 91.


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Military service: Boesch joined the U.S. Navy in 1945, dropping out of high school at 17 to sign up. World War II came to an end before he completed his training, though he served overseas in the war’s aftermath. He became a Navy SEAL in 1962 and later deployed to Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star for his heroic action in combat. He remained a Navy man for 45 years before his retirement in 1990, along the way becoming a legend among the SEALs for his love for grueling physical training and his meticulous attention to his uniform and military crew cut.

Boesch on his service with the SEALs: “The best life in the world. ‘Survivor’ wasn’t nothing compared to what I did, and it’s just that way.” —from a 2014 interview with the Virginian-Pilot

What people said about him: “Ours was an interesting bond, Dear Rudy! You and I helped open minds and undermine prejudices. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!” —Richard Hatch, winner of the first season of “Survivor”

“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 of 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.” —Jeff Probst, host of “Survivor”

Full obituary: The Virginian-Pilot

Related lives:

  • Ashley Massaro (1979 - 2019), WWE superstar competed on “Survivor: China”
  • Caleb Bankston (1987 - 2014), competed on “Survivor” in 2012 and 2013
  • Jennifer Lyon (1972 - 2010), “Survivor: Palau” contestant