Alex Trebek, a legend of television, a pop culture icon and a man synonymous with the game show Jeopardy!, has died. The host passed away after he revealed to his fans that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in Mar. 2019. While Alex had vowed to fight the disease, even he admitted that he was facing a low “survival rate” of 7%. Sadly, he was correct, as he succumbed to the disease on Sunday, Nov. 8.
“Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” a post shared to the show’s official Twitter and Instagram posts read. “Thank you, Alex,” the statement also said. Despite his illness, Alex did not retire from the long running game show and continued to host. In a post on the official Jeopardy! website, it was noted that his last day in studio was on Oct. 29 and his final episode is scheduled to air on Dec. 25, 2020.
“This is an enormous loss for the Jeopardy! staff, crew and all of Alex’s millions of fans,” Mike Richards, Executive Producer of Jeopardy! also said in a statement. “He was a legend of the industry that we were all lucky to watch night after night for 37 years. Working beside him for the past year and a half as he heroically continued to host Jeopardy! was an incredible honor. His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen. His constant desire to learn, his kindness, and his professionalism will be with all of us forever,” he added.
Alex chose not to hide his diagnosis from the public, choosing instead to reveal his cancer in a video to all his fans. “Hi, everyone,” Alex said in 2019, demonstrating his trademark tone of voice that was half “supportive high-school teacher,” half “encouraging grandfather.” “Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working…Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.”
For a moment, it seemed as if Alex was going to be among the rare few who beat stage 4 pancreas cancer. At the end of May 2019, he told PEOPLE magazine that he had reacted exceptionally well to chemo, and that his tumors had shrunk by 50%. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory,” he said at the time, adding that his doctors said he was at “near remission” levels.
The man George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada has been a staple of evening television for close to forty years. After starting his television career in 1963 by hosting a Canadian music program called Music Hop, he relocated to the United States in the early 1970s to host The Wizard of Odds. In 1974, he hosted the popular High Rollers until its cancellation in 1980. While appearing in a variety of shows, Alex would get his biggest break in 1984, when the late Merv Griffin tapped him to host the 1984 revival of Jeopardy!
“If I hadn’t gotten the job hosting Jeopardy,” he told The Daily Beast in 2017, “I would probably have continued in the same business and might have hosted other game shows that would have been canceled many, many years ago, but I got lucky and winded up with this program. Keep in mind that I’ve been in broadcasting for 55 years now, so it’s not like it just came about suddenly.”
Alex floated the idea of retiring in 2018 while speaking with Harvey Levin on OBJECTified. “[I] mentioned to our producer not so long ago that the fellow who does the play-by-play for the Los Angeles Kings [Alex Faust], they should consider him,” Alex said when bringing up as a possible replacement. He also suggested attorney Laura Coates – a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and Internal affairs and the University of Minnesota Law School – as another person who could take over the show for him. Later, he joked that his friend Betty White, 98, could replace him! A Jeopardy! statement posted to the website state that “the show is not announcing plans for a new host at this time.”
Prior to his passing, Alex Trebek was married twice. He and businesswoman Elaine Callei were wed in 1974. They divorced in 1981. Nine years later, he and Jean Currivan, a real estate project manager from New York, tied the knot. The two had two children together – son Matthew and daughter Emily. In 1998, the Canadian-born Alex became a U.S. citizen.
Despite being a television icon, Alex always stayed humble about his placement in the annals of pop culture. “Oh, the show will go on without me,” Alex said to The Daily Beast. “Bob Barker has retired and Drew Carey is doing a good job on Price. Monty Hall, my good friend, died [in 2017] and Wayne Brady is doing a good job on Let’s Make a Deal. So, there will come a time when Pat [Sajak] and I [retire]—I’ll probably leave before Pat does, because he’s younger—and somebody else will come along and replace us. No problem.” While there will be another host on Jeopardy, there will be no replacing Alex Trebek.