SOUTH FLORIDA – High school teacher and former contestant on “Extreme Weight Loss” Rod Durham died over the weekend, weeks after celebrating his 52nd birthday with a publicly shared appreciation for life, according to those close to him.
Durham was found dead in a motel in South Florida, where he was visiting for spring break, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Friends told the news outlet Durham died of diabetic shock.
Durham was a contestant on the fourth season of ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss,” which follows “super obese” people for a year to document their lives.
The show chronicled Durham’s coming out to his father and his journey to slim down his 448-pound frame. His ultimate goal: to become a Broadway performer, and on his 50th birthday, Durham had the chance to audition for Chicago – and while he was in NYC, he climbed the stairs to the Empire State Building.
Through it all, he struggled to overcome a food addiction that threatened to derail his progress.
Trainers Heidi Powell and Chris Powell shared their memories of Durham in emotional Instagram posts.
“Rod, you will be missed terribly. Everything from your kindness, to your warm smile and bear hugs, to your friendship, to you extraordinary ability to make ANYONE (including me) feel special. YOU are special. And will never be forgotten,” Heidi Powell wrote.
Chris Powell lauded Durham’s “positive energy” – a praise shared by many of his students – and called him an inspiration to others.
“Your positive energy and contagious laugh brightened this world and everyone lucky enough to meet you. You had an ability to make everyone feel special and loved. You changed your own life and in the process, you motivated and inspired millions of others. You have forever made a positive difference in this world.
Durham’s final Instagram post was ecstatic, celebrating his 52nd birthday on Feb. 6.
“…I’m happy to still be alive!” he wrote.