Host of ‘Jeopardy!’ and Canadian icon, Alex Trebek, passes away at 80 years old
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
His love for Canada was also shown on Jeopardy! as Trebek required that every episode of the show contained at least one Canadian question.
Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! for 36 years, Order of Canada recipient, and considered by many to be one of the greatest game show hosts of all time, died Sunday in his Los Angeles home after an almost two-year bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario in 1940. After a tremulous childhood in which he was almost kicked out of boarding school, Trebek went on to the University of Ottawa and graduated with a degree in philosophy. While going to school, he began working at CBC. As the years went on, Trebek rose up through the network, covering everything from sports to game show hosting. By the 1970s, he was one of the most recognisable hosts on the network. In 1973, another Canadian talent, future Growing Pains star Alan Thicke, was starting a game show called The Wizard of Odds and wanted Trebek to host. The show would last for a year before being cancelled, but Trebek would prove his staying power—bouncing from game show to game show before finally landing the hosting gig of a rebooted version of the classic game show Jeopardy! in 1984. The game show would prove to be a hit, and as the years went on, Trebek became synonymous with the game—winning the Emmy Award for Best Game Show Host six times.
With his recognisable cadence and dry sense of humour, Trebek’s star would rise. It eventually got to the point where for many contestants, just being in the presence of Trebek was as exciting as winning money. This could be seen in a post made to the Jeopardy! Twitter account. Just three days before Trebek’s passing, a show contestant named Burt Thakur said that watching Jeopardy! and Trebek helped him learn English. While fighting back tears he said “I learned English from watching you. My grandfather, who raised me, I used to sit on his lap and watch you everyday, so this is a very special moment for me man. Thank you.”
In February of 2019, Trebek was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. In the week after his announcement, he received countless letters and tweets from fans wishing for his recovery. In an interview less than three months later, Trebek mentioned how well his chemotherapy was going, and surmised that it might be due to the support he was receiving from fans. He said that some days he would feel weak and tired, but it was not detectable on the show, where Trebek continued to read out the questions as steady and confidently as he always had.
While Trebek grew to become an icon in the US, he never forgot his Canadian roots, donating five-million dollars to the University of Ottawa to start the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, and returning to the country regularly for speaking appearances and other events. His love for Canada was also shown on Jeopardy! as Trebek required that every episode of the show contained at least one Canadian question. In 2017, Trebek received the Order of Canada, Canada’s second highest civilian honour, for his lifetime of work and service to the nation.
Tebek’s death has brought out a flood of emotion from past contestants and celebrities. He was one of the most respected personalities to ever grace the television screen. For the many families who would gather around suppertime to play the popular quiz game, the absence of Trebek will be felt. Whoever takes on the role as the new host of Jeopardy! will have a mighty task trying to equal the legacy of the man with all the answers.