Alex Trebek, whose erudite manner entertained and educated generations of viewers of the iconic quiz show “Jeopardy,” died Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 80 after a fierce and public battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex,” the game show’s official Twitter account announced.
Trebek hosted the syndicated half-hour trivia show since 1984, and continued taping episodes this year through his battle with the disease.
He announced in March 2019 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and was very public in discussing his illness and chemotherapy.
In July of this year, he said he was “doing well” and looked forward to returning to the show in September.
“I’ve been continuing my treatment and it is paying off, though it does fatigue me a great deal,” Trebek said in a video posted to the show’s official Twitter account. “My numbers are good. I’m feeling great.”
“…I can’t wait to return to the studio and start recording shows for the new season in September,” Trebek said. “Meanwhile, my wish for all of you — stay safe.”
Reactions to his death poured in immediately.
“Very sorry to hear the news about Alex Trebek. Condolences to his family,” tweeted actor William Shatner tweeted.
“Greatest host of one of the greatest shows of all time who passed away sadly after a long battle with cancer. ……Who was Alex Trebek? RIP Mr. Trebek. Thank you for always being there at the end of the day to take my mind off things,” actor Armie Hammer tweeted.
“So sad to hear of the passing of my friend Alex Trebek. He was a fighter and also one of the nicest people on this planet. He has left his mark on the world and in our hearts. My love and prayers go out to Jean and the entire Trebek family. His memory will forever be a blessing,” tweeted 90-year-old actor Ed Asner.
“Alex was valiant to the end & brought great awareness to Pancreatic Cancer. My dad died of it 40 yrs ago and very little has changed. Giving in Alex’ name today,” tweeted actress Dana Delany.
“My heart is so sad over the passing of the classiest game show host of all time!!! His style was real to me …… condolences to his entire family and fans,” tweeted comedian and “Family Feud” host Steve Harvey.
“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” tweeted Ken Jennings, who holds the record for most games won on the show, winning 74 in a row in 2004.
Jennings also tweeted: “Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family — which, in a way, included millions of us.”
Other distinguished “Jeopardy” champions also weighed in.
James Holzhauer, who holds the record for all 15 of the show’s top single-day winnings records and won the 2019 Tournament of Champions, tweeted: “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. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex.”
And Brad Rutter, the show’s money-winning record holder with $4,688,436, tweeted: “Just gutted. There will never be another. RIP, Alex, and thank you so much for everything.”
Rutter later tweeted: “Trebek was a broadcaster who’d done a lot of different things, but what made it work was it absolutely played to who he was: a deeply curious and worldly person with exacting standards. Lots of people can read the cards but you can’t fake that.”
Robert Iger, executive chairman of the The Walt Disney Company, issued the following statement:
“Today we mourn the loss of Alex Trebek. A friend, a colleague, an icon … He graced us with his kindness, warmth, wit and pure elegance, which is why we welcomed him into our homes night after night, year after year. He also showed us what courage looks like as he battled cancer with dignity and determination. We are deeply saddened for his wife Jean, his family, and millions of Jeopardy fans.”
Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis in a YouTube video released March 6, 2019, saying he has a “longtime policy of being open and transparent” with fans of the show, and to prevent people “from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health.” He returned to work six days later on the Sony lot in Culver City where the show is taped.
“Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Trebek said in his initial announcement. “Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to 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, because under the terms of my contract, I have to host `Jeopardy@’ for three more years,” he joked. “So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done.”
A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Trebek began his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and hosted a number of music and game shows in Canada. He was tapped to host the revival of “Jeopardy” in 1984. The show was already a known quantity from its previous incarnations under host Art Fleming from 1964-75 and again from 1978-79.
Trebek make the show his own, though, and quickly became a fan favorite. He was smooth and knowledgeable, and set a high bar for contestants, often gently scolding them for strategic blunders or not knowing an easy answer, yet always with grace.
His “Jeopardy” became a nightly ritual for millions of households across North America, and was a particular favorite with teachers. The show conducted annual college tournaments, and its occasional “Celebrity Jeopardy” segments, where celebrities played for charity, were also popular.
The latter led to a well-known recurring sketch on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 2000s, in which Will Ferrell impersonated Trebek as the host was needled mercilessly by Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery. (In a coincidence, Connery died on Oct. 31.)
In 2014, Trebek set the record most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter with 6,829 episodes of “Jeopardy!,” breaking the previous record held by “Price is Right” host Bob Barker, according to Guinness World Records.
He was also a noted philanthropist, traveling to several countries with the charitable group World Vision Canada, and donating 74 acres of open land in the Hollywood Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1998.
He leaves behind a wife and two children.
“Jeopardy” producers have made no announcements about plans for a new host. According to Variety, Trebek’s last day in the studio was Oct. 29, and episodes hosted by Trebek will air through Dec. 25.