VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rudy Boesch, a retired tough-as-nails Navy SEAL and fan-favorite on CBS’ inaugural season of “Survivor,” has died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 91.

Rudy Boesch arrives at the CBS “Survivor” 10 Year Anniversary Party on January 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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Director of operations for the Seal Veterans Foundation, Steve Gonzalez, said Boesch died peacefully Friday night in hospice care in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was surrounded by loved ones.

The SEAL-turned-reality TV star was born in Rochester, New York in 1928 and joined the Navy in 1944 at the age of 17. He retired in 1990 a master chief petty officer. The decorated veteran completed two tours of duty in Vietnam and earned a Bronze Star.

He was 72 years-old when he took third place on “Survivor” in 2000. Boesch proved to be so popular as the no-nonsense but loveable character that he was invited back for the eighth season, “Survivor: All Stars.”

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Richard Hatch, Boesch’s co-star and eventual winner of the hit show’s first season, paid tribute to him on social media Saturday.

“He was a legend in the Seal teams long before ‘Survivor,'” Gonzalez said. “Rudy was beloved by all and will be deeply missed.”

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)