Alex Trebek passed away on Sunday at the age of 80. Trebek, popularly known as the beloved host of the hit game show “Jeopardy!”, succumbed to stage 4 pancreatic cancer after suffering a 35 year-long battle with the illness, a fact which he shared with the public just 19 months ago.
Trebek’s death has been met with immense public grieving by his family and friends, as well as a crowd of adoring fans including fellow celebrities and former “Jeopardy!” contestants. In the days after Trebek’s death, many of these supporters have taken to social media to express gratitude for the beloved host and to memorialize his incredible life.
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis wrote on Twitter, “The answer is..... THANK YOU! Alex Trebek. You were grace and guts and humor and deep love”.
Other public figures like Ryan Reynolds, John Legend and Jimmy Kimmel have mirrored Curtis’ message, reflecting on personal experiences with Trebek and commending him on a life well-lived.
Trebek’s life and career are certainly of note. He hosted 8,200 episodes of “Jeopardy!” over 37 seasons, but originally started his professional career as a journalist. Trebek eventually tried his luck at game-show hosting, being featured in several shows including "Reach for the Top" and “Jackpot” before earning his big break.
In 1984, Trebek was chosen as the host of “Jeopardy!”, which was a revival of a show of the same name, airing for two years from 1974-75.
The show quickly found remarkable success, earning a primetime television spot and becoming a continued staple in American homes since its inception.
It is regarded by many as one of the greatest and most culturally significant gameshows of the modern era. TV Guide, for one, has actually proclaimed “Jeopardy!” to be one of the best shows of all time. This is an opinion reflected by the shows impressive 39 Emmys, which is the most earned by any game show in history.
Trebek himself, earned five Daytime Emmy Awards for his role as host, a testament to his uniquely witty and humorous on-air presence.
But for many, Trebek and “Jeopardy!” signify much more than a source of entertainment. The show, and its host, have an incredibly inclusionary nature, inspiring millions of viewers to embrace their intelligence and pursue knowledge without shame.
Former “Jeopardy!” winner Ken Jennings corroborates this point.
“In short, “Jeopardy!” is an oddity, beamed into your home every night from an eggheaded, alternate-reality America where television never dumbed down,” said Jennings via social media. “If “Jeopardy!” is the ultimate American game show, though, it’s because it’s an aspirational one. “Jeopardy!” shows us not as we are but as we wish we were, as we could be”.
Trebek’s reputation extends far past awards and accolades for his show. Throughout his lifetime, Trebek was known as a committed and extremely generous member of his community.
While battling cancer and juggling the responsibility of hosting one of TV’s most adored shows, Trebek found time to give back in major ways.
He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Los Angeles-based organization, Hope of Valley Rescue Mission, which was instrumental in the construction of two separate homeless shelters.
In addition, Trebek was known as a lifelong environmental ally. He has supported a number of conservation efforts and avidly worked to protect endangered species. The endangered musk ox was Trebek’s favorite animal, earning him the nickname "Herd Godfather".
Trebek also used his platform and hard-earned wealth to support pancreatic cancer research after his diagnosis. His advocacy involved numerous public appearances, including at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Purple Stride walk in LA where he inspiringly told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, as survivors, we will help get the message across that there is hope — we will beat cancer”.
Trebek’s incredible legacy, including his influential activism and extraordinary television career, will continue to survive long after his death. In addition to being honored by fans and those closest to him, “Jeopardy!” itself has taken commemoration steps.
For one, the remaining 35 unaired episodes featuring Trebek will air as normal based in accordance with Trebek’s final wishes.
Monday’s episode, which was the first following Trebek’s death, opened with an endearing tribute to the late host.
"He loved this show and everything it stood for. ... He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family,” said executive producer Mike Richards during the show.