Rudy Boesch, a tough-as-nails Navy SEAL who retired as a master chief petty officer and became a fan favorite on the inaugural season of “Survivor,” died Nov. 1 at a hospice center in Virginia Beach. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by Steve Gonzalez, director of operations for the SEAL Veterans Foundation. He had Alzheimer’s disease.

Master Chief Boesch joined the Navy in 1944 and became one of the first SEALs in 1962. He served two combat tours during the Vietnam War, received honors including a Bronze Star and retired from the Navy in 1990.

Before his retirement, Master Chief 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.

At 72, Master Chief Boesch was the oldest contestant ever on the hit CBS reality series, taking third place on its first season, known as “Survivor: Borneo,” in 2000, and becoming a close ally of winner Richard Hatch.

He proved so popular as a no-nonsense but lovable character that he was invited back for the eighth season, “Survivor: All-Stars,” released in 2004.

Rudolph Ernst Boesch was born in Rochester, N.Y., on Jan. 20, 1928. His father was a butcher, and both of his parents were Austrian immigrants. He dropped out of high school at 16 and served in the Merchant Marine before joining the Navy.

His wife of 53 years, Marjorie Thomas, died in 2008. They had three daughters.

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