(CNN)Rudy Boesch, who was a contestant on the first season of CBS’ “Survivor,” has died, the SEAL Veterans Foundation said.
“Master Chief was a legend in the SEAL and Special Operations community,” the foundation said, adding that Boesch served from 1944 to 1990.
Boesch spent the majority of his life as an active-duty SEAL orsupporting “the generation of warfighters who still follow in his footsteps,” Naval Special Warfare Command Force Master Chief Bill King and Commander Collin P. Green said in a statement.
He enlisted at just 17, during World War II, the two said.
“Many Americans will remember Rudy as a loveable, pop culture icon, but those of us in the community were among the few who really knew him and what he stood for beyond the TV screen,” they said.
“Long before the SEAL Ethos was written, Rudy lived it,” they said.
Survivor Executive Producer Jeff Probst said the reality show’s family “has lost a legend.”
He said Boesch, 91, played in the show when he was 72.
He’s one of “the most iconic and adored players of all time,” Probst said. “And he served our country as a 45-year Navy SEAL. Rudy is a true American hero.”
The show tweeted, “Our hearts go out to Rudy’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed.”