When I was a kid, Evel Knievel was the archtype of cool. Seems like he was in the news all the time back in those days.. the days of jumping semi trucks, and Las Vegas, and even that Gawd Awful Snake River canyon jump..
Evel passed from this life last Friday, dying relatively painlessly, which is ironic considering the life he led. The man that boasted of having broken nearly every bone in his body ended up dying of natural causes.
In the late 1990's, Knievel's health began declining steadily. Knievel had a life saving liver transplant in February of 1999 as a result of suffering the long term effects from Hepatitis C. He contracted the disease after one of the numerous blood transfusions he received prior to 1992. In 2005, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable and terminal lung disease that required him to be on supplemental oxygen 24-hours a day. In 2006, Evel had an internal morphine pain pump surgically implanted to help him with the excruciating pain in his deteriorated lower back, one of the costs of incurring so many traumas over the course of his career as a daredevil. He also had two strokes since 2005, but neither left him with severe debilitation.
He died at Clearwater, Florida, on November 30, 2007, aged 69 years. He had been suffering from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis for many years. Longtime friend Billy Rundle reported that Knievel had trouble breathing while at his residence in Clearwater, but died before the ambulance could reach the hospital. "It's been coming for years, but you just don't expect it. Superman just doesn't die, right?" was Rundle's reaction. In his last interview, he told Maxim Magazine, "You can’t ask a guy like me why I performed. I wanted to fly through the air. I was a daredevil, a performer. I loved the thrill, the money, the whole macho thing. All those things made me Evel Knievel. Sure, I was scared. You gotta be an asshole not to be scared. But I beat the hell out of death."
A lot of childhood icons have passed this year (do a sort on the obit label some time), but Knievel was one of the most memorable. So long, you crazy man. May your eternity be without a single twinge of arthritis pain.