Alex Trebek was a living legend.
Trebek, who hosted “Jeopardy!” for 37 years, was as much a part of the daily routines of Americans as the show’s reverse answer-question format.
When Trebek died Sunday after announcing his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2019, players, friends and celebrities rushed in with fond memories of the master trivia host and the answers he so memorably delivered.
Trebek, who was 80 when he died, inspired a deep admiration from viewers. He felt like part of their families, arriving on their TV nightly since the mid-’80s with clues about U.S. presidents and famous authors and classical music. Yelling the questions at the unflappable game show mainstay on the screen was at once a hallowed tradition a visit with an old friend.
“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did,” tweeted “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings, sharing a photo of himself taking a selfie with Trebek. The master player won the $1 million “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament in January.
“He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” Jennings said. “Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family—which, in a way, included millions of us.”
“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging,” Trebek said when he announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2019. “But I’m gonna 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.”
“Truth told, I have to,” he said. “Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host “Jeopardy!” for three more years!
“Jeopardy!” producer Mike Richards told CNN that Trebek, who normally taped up to five shows a day, fought pain and exhaustion throughout his cancer treatment, but wouldn’t let it show.
“You couldn’t tell when the cameras rolled,” he said. “He recorded what would now be his final episodes less than two weeks ago.”
The longtime host even gave a speech about togetherness and family as part of an episode that will air Christmas week. His words left the crew in tears. They applauded.
“It will resonate even more now, Richards said.
Richards said he learned how to be a better man from watching Trebek.
“He was really that great,” he said — a trivia boss who “craved knowledge.”
Hours after his death, Trebek was remembered as a friendly face, a formidable host and illuminator of fact — a class act.
“Alex Trebek’s courage, grace and strength inspired millions and awed those of us who knew him,” tweeted “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak, Trebek’s longtime peer on ABC. “A tremendous loss for his family, friends, co-workers and countless viewers. I was honored to be a friend and a part of his professional family for all these years. A very sad day.”
“Alex Trebek was a gentleman, and it was (a) privilege to share the stage, even briefly, with such a kind, thoughtful guy,” tweeted another nightly TV star — “Late Show” host and Montclair resident Stephen Colbert.
Another “Jeopardy!” champion, James Holzhauer, recalled competing on the show during this year’s “Greatest of All Time” tournament. He said Trebek served an important role in our culture. He wasn’t just someone who delivered answers. He stood as a symbol of truth at a time when lies and misinformation threatened to obscure it.
“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,” he tweeted. “You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex. Alex was so much more than a host. He was an impartial arbiter of truth and facts in a world that needs exactly that. He was someone you could count on to entertain you every weekday, even when his health barely allowed it.”
“And he was an underrated rapper,” Holzhauer said, sharing a clip in which Trebek memorably recites some Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Desiigner lyrics.
“We have lost an icon,” tweeted Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Trebek’s native Canada (he was born in Sudbury, Ontario). “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.”
Actor Ryan Reynolds, Trebek’s fellow Canadian, said the game show host filmed a cameo last year for his upcoming film “Free Guy.”
“He was gracious and funny,” Reynolds tweeted. “In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian. We love you, Alex. And always will.”
In 2019, with Trebek undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Dhruv Gaur, a Brown University student who competed on the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, sent the host a message.
“What is we love you, Alex!” Gaur wrote on his blue screen, with a heart standing in for the word “love.” The move cost him $1,995 in the game, leaving him with $5.
Trebek’s voice cracked as he read Gaur’s reply.
“Oh, that’s very kind,” he said. “Thank you.”
Their exchange went viral.
“Lost for words,” Gaur tweeted after Trebek’s death. “I’m full of gratitude for the joy Alex brought to homes like mine every night. I feel lucky for the few episodes I got to share this show with him. Even more lucky to share with him how much he meant to all of us. #WeLoveYouAlex.”
Singer John Legend was among those who treasured tuning in to see Trebek every night as a kid.
“I was obsessed with Jeopardy as a nerdy kid growing up in Ohio,” he tweeted. “I’ve loved and revered Alex Trebek since I can remember. What an iconic career.”
“Jeopardy!” champion Burt Thakur also grew up watching the show. On a recent episode, he teared up as he told Trebek about what it meant to him.
“I learned English because of you,” Thakur said. “My grandfather who raised me, I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day. So it’s a pretty special moment for me.”
After Trebek died, Thakur tweeted words from the Rainer Maria Rilke poem “Death.”
“When with proud joy we lift life’s red wine / To drink deep of the mystic shining cup / And ecstasy through all our being leaps — Death bows his head and weeps.”
“I am overwhelmed with emotion right now and my heart goes out to the Trebek family,” he said.
Some fondly recalled being a part of the clues, or answers, Trebek read on the show.
“I was the ‘answer’ on Jeopardy a couple of times and hearing ALEX TREBEK say my name truly felt like a dream,” Billy Eichner (“Lion King,” “Billy on the Street”) tweeted. “We could all benefit from conducting ourselves with that level of elegance and measure. An icon for almost 40 years! RIP Alex Trebek.”
“Alex Trebek holds a special place in my heart,” actress Mara Wilson tweeted. “He was like Mr. Rogers, or Carl Sagan on Cosmos, or Bob Ross. Somebody kind who just wanted to share knowledge with us.”
TV host Steve Harvey called Trebek “the classiest game show host of all time!”
“Alex Trebek was a fighter, a gentleman, and a legend,” tweeted New Jersey Devils player P.K. Subban, sharing a video of himself meeting the legend.
“Thanks for sharing so much of your life w us Alex Trebek,” tweeted actress Rosario Dawson. “You have brought me to tears so many times w your cheeky humor, kindness & brilliance & esp. as I watched you bravely take on the same cancer my father has been battling these past years. Blessings.”
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