Rudy Boesch, the ex-Navy SEAL who became a fan favorite on Survivor's first season, died Friday after a battle with Alzheimer's. He was 91. Boesch "was surrounded by his family and passed away peacefully" in Virginia, a SEAL veterans official tells the Hollywood Reporter. "He proudly served our nation from 1944-1990 and his impact on the men and women of Naval Special Warfare and the Special Operations Command is immeasurable... Rudy was beloved by all and will be deeply missed." But his public impact came as the Survivor contestant who impressed fans with plain-spoken judgments of other castaways. "The hardest part is hanging around with all the young kids," he complained on the CBS reality show, adding: "I don't even know what MTV means."
Producers thought the old swabbie—and he was old for Survivor at 72—would easily win the million-dollar prize, but he enigmatically lost the season's last challenge of holding his hand on a totemic idol. "We thought our dreams had vanquished," host Jeff Probst told MTV a few years back. Born in Rochester, NY, Boesch enlisted in the Navy in 1945, joined the original SEAL Team Two in 1962, served in Vietnam, and earned a Bronze Star for heroism during two combat deployments, per Variety. His surprise TV career included Survivor: All-Stars and JAG as well as hosting roles on Combat Missions and Modern Marvels. His wife Marge died in 2008; he is survived by three children, per TMZ. (Read more obituary stories.)