John Schnabel’s life and the legacy he left behind is truly a love story. Not only was this 96-year-old wise and caring patriarch loved by his family, but fans worldwide came to view him as one of their own. A beloved fan-favorite on Gold Rush, he was often called “everyone’s Grandpa” or even “America’s Grandpa,” because so many people felt connected in some way to John Schnabel.
After John Schnabel passed peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of March 18, fans flooded social media to express their sadness and to pay tribute to a man they never personally met but still felt a deep affection for. John Schnabel touched many lives with the way he devoted himself to his family and how he mentored his grandson Parker Schnabel on the popular Gold Rush show. The bond shared between these two men was obvious to everyone, and although he may not have always agreed with John’s advice, the younger Schnabel always showed his grandfather the respect he deserved.
Within 24 hours of John Schnabel’s death, major media outlets such as People were reporting on his passing.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man,” the Schnabel family told Aaron Couch from People’s TV Watch in an exclusive statement. “He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”
The Huffington Post shared that John Schnabel lived an amazing and full life, growing up during the Great Depression and eventually following his father to Alaska after they lost the family farm in Kansas. John Schnabel later joined the Navy during World War II, but was placed in the Air Corps and after serving his country, returned to Alaska. In 1950, John Schnabel married Erma Dire, and they had five children. John Schnabel also served two terms as the mayor of Haines, Alaska.
After undergoing triple bypass surgery, doctors advised John Schnabel to remain active, so he decided to purchase the Big Nugget mine located at Porcupine Creek in Alaska, almost 30 years ago when he was 68. He saw the mine as a way to stay busy and also viewed it as a great place for his entire family to spend some quality time together. John Schnabel eventually handed the mine over to his grandson Parker, and it became the launching pad for Parker’s quest to become a successful gold miner.
He certainly achieved that goal, and during the recent sixth season finale of Gold Rush, there was a touching scene when John Schnabel, his voice full of emotion, told Parker just how pleased and proud he was of the man his grandson had become. Parker was able to not just reach his goal of 3,000 ounces of gold, but he surpassed it by several ounces, which earned him the title “King of the Klondike.”
The final tally came in at 353 ounces of gold, giving Parker and his crew a 3,362-ounce season that is worth a whopping $3.7 million dollars. A big celebration followed the news of their impressive haul, and no one knew that just a few days after the episode aired that John Schnabel would be gone.
Some comments and tributes that came in regarding John Schnabel’s passing are particularly touching. Many of his fans posted how much he will be missed and passed along their condolences to the family. Parker thanked fans for their comments on his Twitter page as well.
Will you be watching the “Remembering Grandpa Schnabel” special? Leave your comments, thoughts, and opinions below. Gold Rush: Legends airs on Friday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel.
[Image via Gold Rush/Facebook]