I remember, as a young boy, turning on the tv to watch Wide World of Sports on Saturdays. I searched the tv guide every week for any motorcycle races and the possibility of Evel Knievel jumping anything. I never had many heros but I guess you could say Evel became mine for a while. No one was cooler, tougher, or more bad-ass than Evel. When I grew up I wanted to ride a motorcycle just like Evel. He did everything his way, from marketing himself and doing his own promo's to building his own ramps. As I developed other interests as a teenager and his career began to diminish, so did my interest in him. I never forgot about him though. Several years passed before he died in 2007 and ESPN ran a special on Evel. I had forgotten so many of the things he had accomplished in his life. He was a true daredevil and showman, light years ahead of his time for extreme sports. Evel put it all on the line every time he jumped and there wasn't a fake bone in his body, on or off of the bike. Not many people left like that today.
Despite his success as a daredevil, his life after jumping was riddled with health problems. In the late 90's he was in need of a life-saving liver transplant as a result of suffering the long-term effects from Hepatitis C. He had contracted the disease through one of the numerous blood transfusions he had received. In 1999, Knievel was given only a few days to live and he requested to leave the hospital and die at his home. Evel received a phone call from the hospital that a young man had died in a motorcycle accident and could be a donor. Days later, Knievel successfully received the transplant.
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, he 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. He also had two strokes, but neither left him with any severe debilitation. In addition to all of this, he had been living with diabetes for many years.
He went out the same way he lived ... in style. Evel was buried in his hometown of Butte, Montana on December 10, 2007. His funeral was held at the Butte Civic Center with the eulogy given by Matthew McConaughey. There were fireworks exploding in the night sky as pallbearers carried Evel in for the ceremony.