John Schnabel, the leader of the Schnabel family and a legendary gold miner in Alaska, died March 18, 2016. Schnabel was 96 and was suffering from prostate cancer.
In an exclusive statement to People, the Schnabel family said: "We couldn't have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man. He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life."
As stated by Gold Rush Wikia, Schnabel was also the former mayor of Haines and shareholder of the Big Nugget Mine. Born in 1920, he was son of a wheat farmer in Kansas. After the Great Depression, his father lost the family farm and moved to Alaska.
Getting his first job as a paper boy, Schnabel received a loaf of bread and a block of cheese for his family as his first salary. In 1939, he decided to join his father and moved to Haines, Alaska.
Eventually, Schnabel found his passion in the mining work and made a success in Alaska. In 1984, he bought a claim at Porcupine Creek, which was later known as the Big Nugget Mine.
Schnabel was also a war veteran as he had volunteered to join the army in 1941 after the Pearl Harbour bombing. Afterwards, he served in the Air Corps until 1946. He married Erma Dire in 1950 after the war and the couple had five children.
After suffering a heart attack a few years ago, Schnabel's health deteriorated, but he continued working in the mines. He mentored his grandson, Parker Schnabel, and entrusted him the mining operations in 2011.
In 2013, Schnabel was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Despite his old age and illness, he continued the mining work and was actively working there until recently.