For 37 years, Alex Trebek’s kind face and gentle voice filled viewers’ homes each night. He puzzled our brains, piqued our curiosities and put genuine smiles on the faces of millions. His presence on the grand stage of “Jeopardy!” became a comforting staple, a veritable slice of American pie that followed dinner with the family and preceded the local evening news.
Trebek did not demand the attention of his viewers for a half hour nightly; rather, he earned it.
With perfect diction and soft inflection, Trebek read the answers to trivia questions for contestants for over 8,000 “Jeopardy!” episodes. In 2014, Trebek set the record for most episodes of a single game show, surpassing the previous bar set by long-time “The Price Is Right” host Bob Barker at 6,828 episodes over a span of 35 years, according to The New York Times.
Trebek died on Nov. 8. His struggle with cancer began on March 6, 2019, when he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 1 percent, according to John Hopkins Medicine, meaning that of all patients who are diagnosed with this form of cancer in the fourth stage, only 1 percent will survive the initial diagnosis. One year following his diagnosis, Trebek uploaded a health update video where he noted that only 18 percent of people with his disease survive to that point.
“If the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will,” said Trebek as he recounted the days of pain and depression brought on by treatment. Considering if the treatment was worth continuing, Trebek reassured his viewers that he had something worth living for: his family, his fellow cancer patients, and his faith in God and the millions of prayers he had received. “If we take it just one day at a time,” he said, “with a positive attitude, anything is possible. I’ll keep you posted.” Though his doctor was confident he would make it to the second anniversary of his survivorship, a feat accomplished by only 7 percent of stage IV pancreatic cancer patients, Trebek would pass about eight months following this update.
During his “Jeopardy!” tenure, Trebek was a seven-time recipient of the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Gameshow Host. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. According to jeopardy.com, Trebek was named a member of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and in 2018, he and “Jeopardy!” were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Trebek and “Jeopardy!” received a 2011 Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.”
Trebek is survived by his wife, Jean, and two adult children, Emily and Matthew. He will read his last “Jeopardy!” answer over the television airwaves posthumously on Christmas Day 2020. Though it remains unknown at this time, the final question in the hearts of millions will be: What is “We’ll miss you, Alex?”
Featured image by The Peabody Awards, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.