The popular host of the game show “Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek, passed away on Nov. 8, 2020. He had disclosed his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019 and fought valiantly for the final 19 months of his life.
Despite suffering from terrible pain, Trebek continued in his duties as host almost to the very end. Though he was honest with the staff on set about the effects of his disease and its treatments, he didn’t allow his suffering to show on screen.
He was born George Alexander Trebek in Greater Sudbury, Ontario on July 22, 1940. He was raised bi-lingual, his mother being French-Canadian and his father a chef who came from Ukraine to Canada as a child. He was educated in Jesuit schools until he turned 12, when he moved on to the boarding school at the University of Ottowa Highschool after his parents divorced. Upon graduation he continued at the University of Ottowa proper where he majored in Philosophy.
His introduction to media work came in his junior year of college, working as a relief announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Association (CBC) during the summer. He remained with CBC after leaving college though he changed his focus to hosting duties.
Trebek moved to America in 1973 and was hired to host a number of short-lived game shows as he honed his craft. Meanwhile, “Jeopardy!” went on and off air several times before luck blew his way. In 1984 “Jeopardy!” was in the process of being modernized for yet another return to air when Chuck Woolery needed a last minute replacement host for “Wheel of Fortune” and Trebek was tapped to fill in as host. Merv Griffin, who owned both shows, appreciated his presence on stage and offered Trebek the job of hosting “Jeopardy!”.
Since that time, Alex Trebek has hosted over 8000 episodes of “Jeopardy!”, supplanting Bob Barker as the host with the most episodes of a single game show under their belt. He also acquired the unique position as the only host to have hosted three different game shows simultaneously. On Feb. 4, 1991, along with his regular duties as host of “Jeopardy!” and “Classic Concentration”, he also hosted an episode of “To Tell the Truth”.
Throughout his long career, Trebek has become a revered figure in popular culture. He has played himself in movies and television shows, has been impersonated by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live several times, and was once named one of America’s top 10 most trusted people. His perfect diction, unfailing civility, and calm demeanor have all combined to make him America’s most welcome guest as he visited our homes every weekday for 36 years. There are still new episodes with him as host yet air. The final episode of “Jeopardy!” hosted by Alex Trebek will air Dec. 25, 2020.
America will miss him but we can take comfort in knowing that he went out as he lived, with absolute dignity.