I didn’t have much grandpa experience – my mom’s father passed away before I could ever meet him and my paternal grandfather died when I was not quite 6 (but I do have memories of him bouncing me on my knee and eating his homemade Greek fries).
But having watched multiple episodes of Discovery Channel’s hit show Gold Rush and in my chat with one of the show’s stars, Parker Schnabel, his grandfather, John Schnabel, meant the world to young Parker. John Schnabel passed away a couple weeks ago, and tributes have poured in for Parker and his family.
@goldrush_parker We're so sorry for your loss. Much love to your family. Remember, he'll be with you the rest of your life.
Sure enough, Discovery announced a special tribute to John Schnabel this Friday:
GOLD RUSH SPECIAL – Remembering John Schnabel Premiering Friday, April 1 at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel A special presentation of GOLD RUSH, honoring the life and legacy of Grandpa John Schnabel.
Born in 1920, John was the son of a Kansas wheat farmer. His father brewed bootleg alcohol during prohibition and the family had to leave the farm when the US Marshals came looking for him. At 19 years old, John packed up his possessions and took a steamer north to Haines, Alaska, where he joined his father, who had set up a sawmill.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, John volunteered to join the US Navy, but was placed in the Air Corps. After the war he returned to Haines and in 1946, he bought Porcupine Mill, which, after he renovated it, could produce 10,000 feet of board wood per day. John went on to open a local hardware store and was later elected mayor of Haines.
At 68, John suffered heart problems and underwent a triple bypass. His doctor recommended that he keep active so John bought the Big Nugget mine and started gold mining. He taught his grandsons Payson and Parker how to prospect, pan and operate equipment and passed on to them his passion for gold mining.
On March 18, 2016, John passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 96. A statement from the Schnabel family: “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.”