Walnut Creek “Survivor” contestant Sonja Christopher has died on the age of 87

Sonja Christopher, the friendly, banjo-playing contestant on the primary season of “Survivor” who became the primary person ever voted off the fact show, has died at age 87.

The news of the death of Christopher, a Walnut Creek resident, has been confirmed the official “Survivor” Instagram account Saturday with an announcement from moderator Jeff Probst. A explanation for death was not given.

“(Sonja) was one of the nicest people to ever play 'Survivor.'” “Every interaction I had with her over the years was wonderful,” Probst wrote. “She would always greet you with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.”

Liz Wilcox, a current Season 46 contestant, first broke the news on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday. She shared a photograph of the “Survivor” symbol over FaceTime, as she held up her ukulele, her “luxury item” on the show. Wilcox wrote: “I had the pleasure of meeting her at Christmas. She had so much courage and love for “Survivor” and what the show brought into her life. I hope you sing and play your heart out in a good looking place, Sonja.”

In 2000, Christopher, then 63, competed on “Survivor: Borneo,” the primary season of the CBS reality series. She was extremely popular along with her tribe members, especially for the way in which she serenaded them with a satirical ukulele version of “Bye Bye Blues.” Still, she stumbled several times while attempting to get from water to land throughout the series' first immunity test. On the third day, her colleagues decided to vote her out. This season's winner was Richard Hatch, the contestant from Rhode Island, who performed the required feats naked.

Twenty years later, Christopher reflected on her time on “Survivor” in a wide-ranging interview with Entertainment Weekly. During that short time, she made history in additional ways than one. In addition to being the primary person voted out, the retired music therapist was also the show's first lesbian contestant, in addition to the oldest woman to ever play the sport.

“I was recovering from breast cancer treatment,” Christopher told Entertainment Weekly. “And I was in a relationship for 11 years and my partner found solace elsewhere during the time of cancer. So I had moved into a retirement community and was alone, unattached, my son was grown and taking care of himself. I was reading the morning paper and there was an article about CBS looking for 16 Americans to be found on a lonely road Island to see who can survive for 39 days.”

Christopher, who moved to the Rossmoor community in Walnut Creek, also said she had at all times been fascinated by the concept of ​​attempting to survive “with just my hands and my mind.”

It was “a little humiliating” to be voted out so quickly, she admitted. She also said she escaped with some physical injuries. “I got beaten up pretty bad,” she said. “To this day I still have bruises that won’t go away.”

“Someone once asked me if I thought my early vote-out was due to ageism,” Christopher added. “And I said, 'Oh no.' And you recognize why, because I had no idea about ageism. I used to be at all times good at sports and really physically lively.”

Over the years, Christopher enjoyed a number of the perks of celebrity, appearing on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and dining with Ellen DeGeneres. She has also been in demand as a speaker for breast cancer survivors. Back home in Walnut Creek, Christopher was lively in her community, particularly her local church, Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church. She grew her $2,500 consolation prize right into a cache large enough to finance the development of the church's fellowship hall.

Christopher said she at all times felt “so lucky” to have been on the show.

“The whole thing was so random. I mean, if I hadn't had breast cancer, we probably wouldn't have broken up the relationship,” Christopher told Entertainment Weekly. “And if I hadn't been alone, I wouldn't have tried 'Survivor.' And if I hadn't applied for Survivor, I would never have gotten to speak around the country and raise money for charities and try to convince people with breast cancer that they can not only survive, but thrive. And that was great.”

Christopher also remained good-natured about “the dubious distinction” of being the primary “Survivor” contestant sent home. In a 2017 video posted to the Survivor Central X account of “Survivor” was posted. She noted on the time that she had only just turned 80 years old.

“I plan on watching 'Survivor' for the next 17 years,” she said. “Then I can happily wander to the giant tribal council in the sky.” Then she paused and said mischievously. “Hmm. I hope they don't vote me out.”

Plans for a memorial service are still pending.

image credit : www.mercurynews.com