Beloved 'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek passes away at age 80 after battle with pancreatic cancer

By Zach Harper

The entertainment world and trivia buffs worldwide are in mourning after Alex Trebek passed away on Nov. 8 at age 80 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

The Jeopardy! host first revealed his cancer diagnosis in March 2019, and battled on, continuing to host the beloved quiz show as he got treatment. The program's Twitter account announced the heartbreaking news about his death on Nov. 8.

"Jeopardy! is sad to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends," a tweet read. "Thank you, Alex."

Steve LoCascio, the president of CBS Television Distribution, which airs Jeopardy!, called the legend's death "a tremendous loss."

"Not only was Alex a television icon, but he was one of the most genuine, kind, caring people you could ever know. The way he openly and bravely battled cancer, while continuing to host the show, was a true inspiration. He has brought joy to millions of fans – including generations of families – who have welcomed Alex into their living room each night. Our hearts go out to Alex's wife and children. We have truly lost a legend."

Stars were quick to pay tribute to the host, with many sharing how Jeopardy! had been a fixture in their lives.

"I was obsessed with Jeopardy as a nerdy kid growing up in Ohio," John Legend tweeted. "I've loved and revered Alex Trebek since I can remember. What an iconic career."

Others pointed out their admiration for his kindness and strong work ethic.

"Alex Trebek was kind enough to film a cameo for our film Free Guy last year despite our cancer battle," Ryan Reynolds tweeted. "He was gracious and funny. In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian. We love you, Alex. And always will."

"This is a sad day," Anderson Cooper wrote, sharing a photo of himself on Jeopardy! with Alex. "Alex Trebek brought decades of joy and knowledge into millions of people's lives. He faced this last difficult chapter of his remarkable life with tremendous courage and graced and he gave strength to so many people facing challenges of their own.

"I began watching Jeopardy! in high school and getting to compete on the show several times, and meet Alex, was a dream come true, even when Cheech Marin crushed me.

"Thank you, Alex, for the decades of dedication, and I hope your family finds some comfort in knowing how deeply you were loved and admired by all of us."

Born in Sudbury, Ont. in 1940, Alex studied philosophy at the University of Ottawa, graduating in 1961. He then intended to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, landing job at the CBC. He was very successful at the national public broadcaster, hosting programs on CBC Television and CBC Radio such as the Reach for the Top quiz show, the game show Strategy and CBC Toronto's I'm Here Til 9 morning radio show.

Alex in 1984, around the time he first began hosting Jeopardy!. Photo: © Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

By the mid-1970s, Alex had relocated south of the border, and was hosting a quiz show called The Wizard of Odds. From there, he moved on to High Rollers, Double Dare, Battlestars and Pitfall. In 1984, he was offered the opportunity to host Jeopardy!. The show was actually a revival of a program that had aired from 1964 to 1975. It became his best-known gig, which he held until 2020.

With Jeopardy!, Alex's status as a household name was cemented even more, making him the quintessential game show host. He also helmed To Tell the Truth for its last three months on the air, and guest hosted Wheel of Fortune.

Alex with all of his Emmy Awards in 2005. He was honoured with the Guinness World Record for hosting the most game show episodes, a record which he still held as of 2017. Photo: © E. Charbonneau/WireImage for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

All along the way, he became known for his very dry, witty sense of humour, which he brought to the Jeopardy! set, endearing him to audiences who recognized he was the same person on TV as he was in real life.

Alex was married twice – first to America-born former Canada AM host Elaine Callei in 1974, and then to real estate project manager Jean Currivan in 1990. Alex and Elaine did not have children together, but he adopted her daughter, Nicky. He and Jean had two children, Matthew and Emily.

Alex's bout with cancer wasn't his only health scare later in life. In 2007, he had a minor heart attack, from which he recovered and returned to work in just a few weeks. Five years later, he had another heart incident. His cardiovascular issues continued in 2017, when he underwent surgery for a subdural hematoma that was a complication from a fall earlier that year.

Within a week after Alex's announcement that he had cancer, he was back on set doing what he had done for more than 30 years. A few months later, he said the cancer was "near remission" and "some of the tumours have already shrunk by more than 50 per cent."

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, Alex didn't stop taping Jeopardy!, despite his continuing battle with cancer. The show continued without a studio audience, but was put on for a few months and resumed production in August.

Alex with his most recent Emmy Award, which he won in 2019. Photo: © David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

In addition to widening the world's knowledge, Alex also gave back in other ways. In 1998, he donated 30 hectares of land in the Hollywood Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. He also gave his alma mater, the University of Ottawa, $5 million in 2016 to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue. It aimed to "expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials and guest speakers from around the world."

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