Alex Trebek, whose erudite manner entertained and educated generations of viewers of the iconic “Jeopardy!” died Sunday in Los Angeles after a fierce and public battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex,” the quiz show’s official Twitter account announced.
Trebek, 80, hosted the syndicated half-hour trivia show since its revival in 1984. He continued taping episodes this year despite his battle with the disease.
According to Variety, Trebek’s last day in the studio was Oct. 29. Episodes hosted by Trebek will air through Dec. 25.
We have lost an icon. Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who are mourning this tremendous loss. pic.twitter.com/XoobAfJwBv
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 8, 2020
He announced in March 2019 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and openly discussed his illness and chemotherapy.
In July, Trebek said he was “doing well” and looked forward to returning to the show in September.
“I’ve been continuing my treatment and it is paying off, though it does fatigue me a great deal,” Trebek said in a video posted to the show’s official Twitter account. “My numbers are good. I’m feeling great.”
“I can’t wait to return to the studio and start recording shows for the new season in September,” Trebek said. “Meanwhile, my wish for all of you – stay safe.”
It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex. https://t.co/LLoUASRMa9
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 8, 2020
“Jeopardy!” began its 37th season in syndication Sept. 14 following a premature end to its last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Trebek said, “I feel good and I feel excited because once again `Jeopardy!’ has demonstrated that it’s at the forefront of television programming.
“I believe we are the first quiz show to come back on the air in the COVID-19 era. On a personal level, I’m excited because it gets me out of the house. It gives me something to do on a regular basis and I was missing that.”
Reactions to Trebek’s death poured in immediately, ranging from world leaders to well-known champions, and a recent San Diego “Jeapardy!” winner.
“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” tweeted Ken Jennings. He holds the record for most games won on the show, 74 in a row, in 2004.
Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him. pic.twitter.com/CdHCcbqmp2
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 8, 2020
James Holzhauer, who holds the record for all 15 of the show’s top single-day winnings marks and won the 2019 Tournament of Champions, also shared his thoughts on Twitter.
“It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life,” Holzhauer wrote. “You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex.”
And Brad Rutter, the show’s money-winning record holder with $4.69 million, tweeted: “Just gutted. There will never be another. RIP, Alex, and thank you so much for everything.”
Trebek’s death even drew a response from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Just wanted to share a @Jeopardy memory with Alex: at the end of my first show, Alex turned to us (@ScottShrum and Lisa) and exclaimed, “Gosh. I had fun!” Speaking for myself and I think so many others, WE have had so much fun having Alex in our homes every night. Thank you.
— Carmela Chan (@ACarmelaChan) November 9, 2020
From NASA’s Twitter: “We’re saddened by the passing of legendary @Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Earlier this year, he helped us recruit the next generation of astronauts – a testament to his dedication to challenging us to expand our knowledge,” NASA tweeted.
Robert Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company, issued a statement hailing Trebek for “his kindness, warmth, wit and pure elegance.
“He also showed us what courage looks like as he battled cancer with dignity and determination. We are deeply saddened for his wife Jean, his family, and millions of ‘Jeopardy!’ fans.”
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC. “Jeopardy!” airs on many ABC stations, but on NBC 7 San Diego locally. A recent “Jeopardy!” champion, Carmela Chan, according to the station, grew up watching the show in her Rancho Peñasquitos, Poway and Carmel Valley.
We’re saddened by the passing of legendary @Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Earlier this year, he helped us recruit the next generation of astronauts – a testament to his dedication to challenging us to expand our knowledge. pic.twitter.com/Z4vwbLy1yn
— NASA (@NASA) November 8, 2020
Chan tweeted Sunday: “At the end of my first show, Alex turned to us (@ScottShrum and Lisa) and exclaimed, ‘Gosh. I had fun!’ Speaking for myself and I think so many others, WE have had so much fun having Alex in our homes every night.”
An hourlong program, “Alex Trebek, Remembered: A `20/20′ Special,” celebrating Trebek’s life and legacy, airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on ABC. The network aired a similar special when Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died in August.
Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis in a YouTube video released March 6, 2019, saying he has a “longtime policy of being open and transparent” with fans. He returned to work six days later on the Sony lot in Culver City.
“Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Trebek said in his initial announcement. “Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.
A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Trebek began his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He hosted a number of music and game shows in Canada before being tapped to host the revival of “Jeopardy!” in 1984.
The show was already a known quantity from its previous incarnations under host Art Fleming from 1964-75 and again from 1978-79.
Trebek made the show his own, though, and quickly became a fan favorite. The host, smooth and knowledgeable, set a high bar for contestants, often gently and gracefully scolding them for strategic blunders or not knowing an easy answer.
“I’ve been very blessed to discover how many people our show has influenced in their lives and because of the power of our show, how I have become a factor in the lives of so many other people in that I’m in your home every day and I have been for 35 years,” Trebek said backstage at the 2019 Daytime Emmys.
Trebek, a seven-time winner of the Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host, also won each of the last two years. The 31-time nominee received 28 of them as host of “Jeopardy!”
He also received a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy in 2011.
Trebek’s “Jeopardy!” broadcasts became a nightly ritual for millions of households across North America, particular those that included teachers. The show conducted annual college tournaments, and occasional “Celebrity Jeopardy!” segments.
The latter led to a recurring sketch on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 2000s, in which Will Ferrell impersonated Trebek as Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery needled the host mercilessly.
In 2014, Trebek set the record for most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter with 6,829 of “Jeopardy!” He broke the previous record held by “The Price is Right” host Bob Barker, according to Guinness World Records.
The noted philanthropist also traveled to several countries with the charitable group World Vision Canada, and donated 74 acres of open land to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1998. In addition, he traveled to Japan in 2007 and met U.S. Navy personnel on a USO Tour.
Trebek is survived by his wife and three children, including his first wife’s daughter, whom he adopted.
“Jeopardy!” producers have not revealed plans for a new host.
– City News Service