Today Show 'superfan' Linny Boyette died after an illness on October 6, 2013. (Today.com)
NEW YORK (NBC) -- For nearly 20 years his smiling face was familiar to millions of viewers: Every day, rain or shine, he was there on the plaza as TODAY greeted America. His name was Linny Boyette, but he was perhaps better known as TODAY's superfan.
Sadly, Linny passed away early Sunday morning after an illness, and everyone at TODAY mourns him as a departed member of the show's family. He was 71.
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A military veteran born in England, Linny rose each morning at 3:30 a.m. and took the subway from his home in the Bronx, N.Y., to arrive on the plaza by about 5:30 a.m. Having reserved his spot, he would pass the time until the show began at 7 by reading the paper, drinking tea and chatting with other fans.
"It's something to do every morning. It makes my day," he told TODAY.com in 2010.
Over the years he became regarded as a member of the family, and he was on a first-name basis with many of the anchors. He was particularly close to Meredith Vieira during her five years on the show.
In fact, just minutes after Meredith announced she was leaving the show in May 2011, she stood next to Linny on the plaza to see what it would be like being a fan instead of an anchor. And when she made a return visit in April 2012, she stood next to Linny on the plaza holding a sign reading, "Forget Matt! Here for Linny." Afterward, she brought him into Studio 1A with her.
When Linny was absent from the plaza for a time earlier this year due to health issues, it was noticed - and when he reappeared in March, he got a warm welcome from Matt, Al and Savannah. Unfortunately, his health problems recurred, and now, no matter how crowded the plaza gets with TODAY fans, the daily presence of the greatest TODAY fan of all will never be forgotten.
"It means togetherness and peacefulness," Linny once said of TODAY. "It gets better every day ... never a dull moment on this show."
On Sunday night, Meredith tweeted: "So saddened to hear of Linny's passing. I always loved seeing him every morning on the plaza. He had a wonderful smile and so sweet."
Willie Geist also tweeted Sunday night, calling him "an institution on the plaza. RIP, Linny."
(The Today Show)