‘Gold Rush’ Grandfather And Miner John Schnabel Dead At 96

One of the emotional cores of Discovery’s hit show Gold Rush has passed away. John Schnabel, the owner of the Big Nugget mine and grandfather to show star Parker Schnabel, died in his sleep on Friday morning.

Schnabel has been a fixture on the show since its first season, with his grand son taking a central role in recent seasons. But his interesting story expanded far beyond the confines of the show according to Deadline:

Born in Kansas in 1920, Schnabel was during his life a bootlegger who fled to Alaska to escape the authorities and later, a soldier in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He married Erma Dire in 1950 and the couple went on to have five children together. He became a gold miner late in life, entering the trade to keep active after undergoing triple bypass surgery in 1986.

The show’s official Twitter account published a short statement on Twitter to note the passing:

And his family members also posted their own short memorials to Schnabel and gave a short statement to People Magazine on the passing:

“We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man,” the Schnabel family tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”

Discovery showed a special dedicated to Parker Schnabel on Friday night and included a tribute card to his grandfather ahead of their two hour special.

(Via Deadline / People)