Rudy Boesch, one of the 16 contestants from the first season of Survivor, died on Friday night after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Back in August of this year, it was inaccurately reported via social media that Boesch had died. This was debunked by Boesch’s family, who said the Survivor contestant was being watched on an hourly basis given his illness and age. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Steve Gonzalez- director of Operations of SEAL Veterans Foundation in Virginia Beach- said that Boesch was “surrounded by his family and passed away peacefully.” Boesch was 91 years old.
Boesch was one of the 16 Americans cast on the first season of the CBS reality show Survivor. Airing as a summer replacement in the summer of 2000, Survivor was an instant hit. Boesch, who was 72 at the time, was one of the first season’s most memorable contestants. A retired NAVY Seal, Boesch was memorable for his blunt criticism and views on the younger contestants. Boesch’s casting also worked for CBS- who are known for their older demographic. Throughout the season, Boesch was a fan favorite and almost everyone watching thought he would win. In the end, Boesch ended up finishing in third place- with Richard Hatch winning the game in the end. Survivor became a pop culture phenomenon, with the finale for the first season being one of the highest viewed season finales of all time.
In the show’s near 20 years on the air, Boesch is certainly one of the show’s most memorable and beloved cast members. One of the many things that people remember about Boesch is his unique friendship with winner Richard Hatch. However for the first few days into the game, Boesch was unaware of the fact that Hatch was a gay man.
“Rudy and I is an interesting dynamic” Hatch said in a confessional during the show’s first season. “Because if he were to know that I were gay, that would probably be really difficult for him I think. 72 years old, NAVY Vet. I think it would just freak him. But he doesn’t, as far as I know, know that. And I think he feels comfortable talking to me. I’m certainly comfortable talking to him.”
When Hatch came out to Boesch and the rest of the Tagi tribe, Boesch was taken by surprise.
“The homosexual- he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met” Boesch said in a now memorable series of confessionals. “And he’s good at what he does. Got leadership ability and if these people here would listen to him, he would take them a long way. But anyway, me and Richard got to be pretty good friends. Not in a homosexual way, that’s for sure.”
The friendship between Hatch and Boesch would not only serve as a template for future Survivor two-some’s but would also open the eyes of the millions of Americans who watch Borneo during the summer of 2000- showing how people from completely different backgrounds can sometimes end up becoming good friends.
Boesch would return to Survivor for its eighth season, All Stars, in 2004. Given his age of 76 at the time, Boesch wouldn’t be on the season for long- as he was the second person voted out of the season after a tearful Tribal Council. Still, Boesch is remembered for the impact he had on the show. Outside of the show, Boesch served in the NAVY from 1944 to 1990. In 1968, Boesch fought in the Vietnam War- in which he was awarded with a Bronze Star for his heroic actions. In his personal life, Boesch was married to his wife Marge from 1955 until her death on November 1, 2008. The eighth episode of Survivor‘s then current season, Gabon (Season 17), was dedicated in her memory. With Marge, Boesch would have three daughters.
Tributes have been pouring out all over social media Boesch.
Original Survivor winner and Boesch’s ally Richard Hatch posted this about his late friend:
Ours was an interesting bond, Dear Rudy! You and I helped open minds and undermine predjudces. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!
— Richard Hatch (@HatchRichard) November 2, 2019
Survivor contestant Rob Cesternino (Amazon and All Stars) posted this picture of him with Boesch:
I heard the news today about my old roommate RUDY BOESCH passing away. While I'm incredibly sad for the Boesch family, I'm so happy for the time that he and I shared and the many, many laughs we had on our adventure. RIP Rudy pic.twitter.com/XnQpr73uqx
— Rob Cesternino 🛎 (@robcesternino) November 2, 2019
Forged Clothing’s Twitter account also posted this tribute:
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
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.