Survivor icon Rudy Boesch, one of the first castaways to ever play the game, has passed away at age 91.

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Rudy died following a battle with Alzheimer's disease, People reported

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Rudy, a former Navy Seal, appeared on the first season of Survivor back in 2000 on CBS. He finished the game in third place after lasting 38 days on a beach in Borneo and becoming close allies with the season's winner, openly gay corporate trainer Richard Hatch.

"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 tweeted following Rudy's passing.

Richard also told People, "Rudy Boesch and I both served our country in the military: he in the Navy, and I in the Army. But Rudy also served our country as an example of honesty and open-mindedness by respectfully engaging and aligning with me, an openly homosexual man, to play Survivor on the world stage."

"I grew to love that cantankerous man and his family," Richard added. "We are better people for having known him, and he will be sorely missed. I wish his family peace in their grieving his loss."

In 2000, Rudy rode his alliance on Survivor: Borneo with Richard to the game's Final 3 Immunity Challenge that would determine which contestant would advance to the Final 2 voting.

In that challenge, Richard quickly opted out of the competition, leaving (some might term it betraying) Rudy as the last man standing to battle against a then 23-year-old Kelly Wigglesworth.

Alone against a youthful competitor one-third his age, the then 72-year-old former Navy Seal proceeded to battle the equatorial sun for over four hours before losing the challenge to Kelly.

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Rudy became a fan-favorite player that season and was later brought back for the show's eighth edition, Survivor: All Stars, which aired on CBS in 2004.

Survivor: All Stars castaway Rob Cesternino spoke fondly about his friendship with Rudy.
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"Rudy was my roommate for weeks on our trip to Argentina after we both were voted out during Survivor: All-Stars," Rob told People.

"I would hang on his every word because he was would tell and re-tell all these amazing stories with his unique combination of brutal honesty and a razor-sharp wit. I've never met anybody who could ever make me laugh as much as Rudy."

Tina Wesson, who won Survivor: Australia, also said she has wonderful memories with Rudy given they had competed on the same tribe on Survivor: All Stars when Rudy was 75 years old.

"What you saw on TV is exactly the man he was. He was tough as nails suffering from a bad case of gout on Survivor All-Stars but never really complaining about it, though his foot looked like it may fall off!" Tina told the magazine.

"Rudy passionately loved two things: his wife and the military. It was just that simple. He has always had the respect of every young whippersnapper who came out to play Survivor. Because none of us could do what he did at his age!"

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Rudy reportedly married Marjorie Thomas in 1955 and the couple welcomed three children together -- Ellen, Patricia and Barbara. Rudy and Marjorie reportedly stayed married for 53 years until she died in 2008.

In Survivor All-Stars, Rudy thought he had once again established a strong alliance -- this time with Rupert Boneham -- only to once again be surprised as, when push came to shove, his "ally" played a passive role and allowed others to oust Rudy from the game.

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However, this time around the injured Rudy wasn't the fourteenth player voted out of the game, but instead only the second.

Rudy joined the Navy in Spring 1945 and eventually became a proficient combat swimmer and expert in small-boat operations. In 1962, he was one of the 50 hand-selected officers to become one of the first Navy SEALS.

From 1968-1970, Rudy completed two combat deployments during the Vietnam War, and among his awards, he received the Bronze Star Medal for heroic action during more than 45 combat operations. He was also later awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Rudy retired from the U.S. Navy in 1990 after 45 years of continuous service and became a Red Cross volunteer as well as a volunteer for the Virginia Beach Police Department.

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