'Rest easy Mom': Daughter mourns 'Survivor' star Sunday Burquest, dead at 50 of cancer

Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY
·4 min read

Sunday Burquest, the inspirational youth pastor contestant on 2016's "Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X," died Sunday, April 18 after a battle with esophageal and ovarian cancer, her second cancer battle in a decade. She was 50.

Her daughter, Kennedy Burquest, paid tribute to "my unbelievably beautiful mama" on Instagram Sunday.

"Thank you for fighting as hard as you did for as long as you did. Thank you for being a best friend, a role model, a sister, and my mother all in one. Thank you for raising me to love Jesus, and show that love to others," Kennedy wrote. "I love you to heaven and back a million times. I know one day we will meet again. Until then, I’ll spend every minute missing you, and trying to make you proud. Rest easy mom."

Kennedy announced a celebration of her mother's life will take place on Friday, April 23 at the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, MN., where Burquest served as a minister. The service will be streamed online for those unable to attend.

"Survivor" host Jeff Probst paid tribute to Sunday on Instagram, writing she "had one of the brightest smiles of any person to ever play 'Survivor.' She radiated kindness and understanding to anyone lucky enough to be in her presence."

He added, "She seemed to understand better than most, that life is for living, so say yes to life whenever possible."

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Burquest had written about her cancer battle in 2018's "Grit Girl: Power to Survive," and gave motivational speeches about pulling through the ordeal, relying heavily on her Christian faith. Diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2012, she underwent five surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation, Burquest wrote in her "Survival" profile.

"I'm still here! It was important to me that my kids saw me as a 'warrior, rather than as a whiner," she wrote. "Of course, it was hard, but I wouldn't let cancer take over my life. Because of my faith, I was able to kick cancer's butt!"

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In a June 7 Instagram video Burquest announced she was fighting esophageal and ovarian cancer.

"You know how they say when it rains it pours? Well, it really poured on me today," Burquest said in the video, pointing to her shirt that read, "I survived esophageal and ovarian cancer."

"When did I survive that? Well, I'm going to do it right now because today I was told that I had both, that esophageal cancer started and traveled to my ovary," she continued. "But I will say that I do know that I have already survived cancer once and I will survive it again."

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Burquest, a mother of four who listed her occupation as a youth pastor, was the oldest woman contestant on "Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X" at 45. She pulled off a seventh place finish as the 14th contestant voted off on day 35.

Zeke Smith, who was also on "Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X," posted a tribute to Sunday on Instagram.

"I will love you and remember you for all my days, Darling Sunday," Smith captioned a photo of the late contestant. "Your kindness and selflessness have changed me and so many others. I miss you. Pouring out a Diet Coke in your honor. #RestInPower."

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Sam Smith, who was voted the winner of the 33rd season in 2016, offered Kennedy his condolences on her Instagram post.

"You are your mom in so many ways, Kennedy. She always saw you that way," Smith wrote in a comment. "When I look at you I see her, too. I will get to see my friend Sunday as I watch you on your journey, as the grit girl you know that you are. Your special connection with your mom will always carry you through the tough decisions and important moments in your life … She will guide you, until you meet again."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Survivor' star, youth pastor Sunday Burquest dies of cancer at 50