Boesch was 72 when he competed on the long-running CBS reality series in 2000. He joined the show’s first alliance, creating lasting friendships. Despite being significantly older than the other contestants, he finished in third place behind Kelly Wiglesworth and Richard Hatch.
Boesch became close to Hatch, who paid tribute to him Saturday on Twitter.
“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!” Hatch wrote.
Boesch returned to the franchise for Survivor: All-Stars in 2004. Unfortunately, he would not be as successful, and was the second castaway voted off that year.
He was born Rudolph Ernst Boesch in Rochester, N.Y., in 1928. Boesch enlisted in the Navy at just 17 years old, near the end of World War II in 1945. He became a Navy SEAL in 1962. Boesch completed two combat deployments during the war in Vietnam, and earned the Bronze Star for heroic action. He retired from the Navy as a Master Chief Petty Officer in 1990, after 45 years of service.
Boesch was married to Marjorie Thomas for 53 years until her death 2008. They had three children together.