What's Come Out About Alex Trebek Since His Death

It's impossible to think of Jeopardy! without first envisioning the cool, calm, iconic Alex Trebek. When the Canadian former broadcaster joined the show in 1984, few knew it would swell to enduring popularity over three decades and consequently become a staple in pop culture. Alex hosted the beloved trivia show up until his final days, dying at 80 years old from pancreatic cancer in November 2020. The show was his passion for 36 years, and he had never planned to retire, he told People, even after his cancer diagnosis in 2019. "What am I gonna do? I'm enjoying myself and I'm having a good time with what I'm doing now," he told People. "If I were to retire, what would I do? I'd be lost."  

In a Los Angeles Times interview about his memoir, Alex admitted to being a man without any astonishing secrets. "I'm kind of dull and boring, aren't I? I say it almost apologetically. It would be nice if there was something — not too offensive — but something spectacular that people could say, 'Oh, yeah! I knew Trebek wasn't Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes. He had skeletons in his closet.' But there aren't." It's reassuring, knowing that the guy who delivered millions of people fun and important facts every weeknight was as honest as the facts one had to know to win Jeopardy!. But there are some things we didn't know about Alex until after he died, most of them incredibly endearing and somewhat better than what some would have expected.

Alex Trebek's last year of Jeopardy! was physically and emotionally difficult

Although Alex Trebek's pain was essentially inconspicuous on-camera, plenty of people noticed the understandable toll that cancer was taking on him. Ken Jennings, Jeopardy!'s record holder for the long winning streak, wrote in Time that during the final taping of Season 35, Alex "looked tired from the chemotherapy, maybe a little more worn than usual. But once the music started and the announcer called his name, he could turn it on and stride onstage with the old, cool confidence."

Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards told Today that on Alex's last day of taping, the internationally beloved host had been in quite a bit of pain. According to People, Alex would sometimes be found "on the floor writhing in pain." But he was a man who never took sick days, unless he had an appointment that was as serious as a surgery to remove blood clots from his brain. Even when he showed up to the emergency room for chest pains and the nurse confirmed that he was having a heart attack, he said, "Thank God... I didn't want to come here and waste your time," according to his memoir, And the Answer Is ... Reflections on My Life

He was known as Uncle Alex around the Jeopardy! set

Before and after Alex Trebek died, countless contestants, colleagues, and celebrities talked about how incredibly gracious, genuine, and kind he was as a person. People liked him so much on Jeopardy!, in fact, that he earned the nickname "Uncle Alex" among contestants, even if they hardly knew him. Various players have described how the true Canadian honestly cared about the contestants on the show and wanted people to do well. And while Trebek, ever the professional, never gave an answer away, of course, he would try to help them come upon the correct response with little subtleties in his eyes or mannerisms. 

Even after an episode ended, Alex would give encouragement or feedback to those who were struggling. Jackie Fuchs, a contestant and former bassist of the Runaways, wrote in Variety that Alex reassured one of the players who lost their momentum during the show that it was merely her "buzzer technique" and not her intellect. Julia Collins, Jeopardy's winner with the third-longest streak, recalled a pretty humorous moment on the show where Alex gave her help, via Vulture: "When I responded to the clue, 'It's the accident that got 78-year-old Texas lawyer Harry Whittington into political news in 2006' with 'what is getting shot in the face?,' Alex gestured for more and I quickly added 'by Dick Cheney.'"

Alex Trebek was down to Earth

The beloved Jeopardy! host's demeanor was usually as refined and polished as the questions themselves, but the way Alex Trebek carried himself on camera wasn't necessarily who he actually was during the commercial breaks. Multiple contestants have recalled how Trebek would often sing on the set and tell jokes to audience members. Acquaintances and close friends to Alex usually make mention of his great sense of humor, and he certainly didn't hold back on the show. David Hudson, a Jeopardy! contestant, said on Twitter that during an audience Q&A, a woman told the host, "Alex, you were so handsome with your mustache. I'm mad you shaved it off!" He responded, "I didn't have a problem when you shaved your mustache."

Paul Gessler, a Baltimore reporter, said on Twitter that when he met Alex Trebek, he asked what the Jeopardy! host's most absurd thought was, to which he replied, "Because I look good in white, I could be the Pope." And it turns out, his three-piece getup was also only for the scholarly trivia show. The "consummate professional," as many have referred to him, often surprised contestants when he left work in a pair of jeans and an old T-shirt, driving a pickup truck, per Yahoo! Entertainment

Alex Trebek was handy

Alex Trebek had plenty of passions, from hockey to horse breeding. To add to his already personable nature, he really liked doing projects around his house. Despite being one of the highest-paid game show hosts in Hollywood, he preferred to fix his own roof tiles, pool, and toilet. Ruta Lee, an old friend and colleague from when Alex hosted High Rollers, told the Los Angeles Times, "When a local hardware store was going out of business, he bought everything, so he owns every tool you could think of. If you needed a size 16 ½ whatever, Alex has it."

Even while Alex was suffering during his last months from stage four pancreatic cancer, he found himself getting bored during quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, he told People. He went about fixing his wife's bathroom and tidying up by going through a mountain of stuff that had accumulated for the last 40 years, he said, even trying to see if some of his old electronics had turned into valuable novelties on eBay. No dice, apparently. 

Alex Trebek's suits were donated to charity

It's been well-known throughout Alex Trebek's life that he was incredibly altruistic. From his large donations to help protect the endangered musk ox, to purchasing sizable plots of land to preserve natural places in Los Angeles, to starting his own charity foundation, per People, the Jeopardy! host left a rich legacy of giving. Alex Trebek's son, Matthew, who owns two restaurants in New York, evidently inherited his father's philanthropic nature. Using his business' existing resources, he started running a soup kitchen and donating to organizations to regularly feed the hungry, he told insidewink, his mother Jean Trebek's website. 

So when Jeopardy! producer Rocky Schmitt called Matthew to ask what he'd like to do with Alex's suits he kept at the studio, it seemed natural to put them toward a good cause. Matthew had previously worked with the organization that seemed to be the answer to Rocky's question. He reached out to the Doe Fund, an organization that helps incarcerated men get back on their feet, to donate his father's fabulous, and famous, wardrobe. All of the host's dapper ensembles went to the foundation, except for one tie that Matthew kept as a remembrance for his father. Matthew said, per insidewink, "My hope is that the confidence someone might feel in wearing one of my dad's suits and ties will help them land a job, and more importantly, will help them realize that they are not alone."

Celebrities were starstruck when meeting Alex Trebek

After Alex Trebek died, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers shared his longtime love for Jeopardy! and consequently his admiration for the host. Rodgers said in The Athletic that he grew up watching the trivia show religiously, and when he was given the opportunity to not only meet Trebek but play on Celebrity Jeopardy! he was absolutely starstruck: "I was so excited, trying to keep it together and act like it wasn't the huge deal that it was to me on the inside."

Journalists and contestants have also recalled from events they attended with the host that Hollywood A-listers would line up to meet him. Actress and comedian Loni Love admitted on Twitter: "The only reason I went super early to the 2019 @DaytimeEmmys was in hopes of meeting Mr. Alex Trebek — it was a thrill to meet him and thank him for all the years of entertainment.." Immediately after Alex's death was announced on November 8, 2020, an outpouring of memories and condolences flooded social media from celebrities ranging from Ryan Reynolds to Charlie Puth to Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Alex Trebek donated $500k to charity six months before he died

Alex Trebek always found a cause to support and had a great tendency to give generously. So when the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission was building another homeless shelter (he had donated $100,000 to another shelter the organization was finishing in the San Fernando Valley), he didn't hesitate to show his support again, according to People. Trebek donated $500,000 to the organization, which was renovating an old roller rink into a large shelter and help center for health services and counseling, according to TMZ. Both shelters operate as bridge homes, which teeter between temporary and permanent housing to help create consistency and reliable resources for people in need. 

Alex had found this organization on his own time when he was looking for a way to help address the growing homeless problem in Los Angeles. So when he came across the work of the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, he immediately stepped in to aid in its much-needed efforts, per People. Alex said while visiting one of the shelters, "I'm not one of those NIMBYs [Not In My BackYard]. I'm not one of those people who thinks that we can't deal with the homeless near my house because that's bad. I don't feel that way. I wish more people would react in a positive way to reaching out and trying to help their fellow members of the community." His family will continue on his legacy and involvement with the Trebek Center. 

Alex Trebek wrote his memoir in three months

The timing of Alex Trebek's autobiography, And the Answer Is ... Reflections on My Life, might seem intentional since it was published less than five months before his death, but it was actually completely reactionary. When Trebek found out that author Lisa Rogak had written a biography about him without his knowledge, according to the Los Angeles Times, he was mildly put off. By then the TV host only had a few months to write his own account of his life before Rogak's Who is Alex Trebek? hit the shelves on July 21, 2020, which was also his birthday. 

In the past, Alex had repeatedly turned down numerous book deals to do an autobiography. Always falling on the humble side, he said that he felt like he didn't "have a story to tell." But as a man whose career was made on the celebration and novelty of facts, Trebek couldn't handle the idea that the only biography about him wouldn't have included his input whatsoever. To him, how could the author really get it right? So, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex wrote the book in between three-way calls with his editor and longtime friend and colleague from Jeopardy! Rocky Schmitt. And although it was, in the least amount of words for telling one's life story in a handful of weeks, rushed, Alex said he was given plenty of unprompted positive feedback after it was published, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Alex Trebek continued filming Jeopardy! less than two weeks after intestinal surgery

Alex Trebek was well-known to not be a complainer, despite the severity of various life-threatening incidents he'd managed to survive. One in particular involved a heart attack he'd been having for several days, and when he finally went to the hospital for it, it was because his wife made him, per People. So why would a little (major) intestinal surgery hold him back from returning to work the next week? Well, it didn't! Despite Jeopardy! producers insisting that Alex needed to rest, he retorted, "Do not cancel, I will be there!" according to the Los Angeles Times

He told his producer, Mike Richards, that he was doing fine, and he'd been able to keep down Jello-O that day. Alex showed up on set as scheduled, filming five episodes for the day, as usual. Behind the scenes, the 79-year-old host was evidently exhausted. But once the stage lights illuminated his cue, Alex stepped out on stage like nothing in his life had changed whatsoever, giving his all for the eager players and loyal viewers at home that he knew the show meant so much to. Ten days later, he passed away.

Alex Trebek became more concerned with quality of life toward the end

From the beginning of his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Alex was candid with his enormous following that the "prognosis for this is not very encouraging," although he was going to fight to beat the odds that were against him, per Jeopardy!. And it seemed like he was doing just that after only five months of chemotherapy, letting fans know on Jeopardy! that he was doing much better. However, as soon as he switched over to immunotherapy, his cancer came back hard, and the uphill battle continued, according to People.

Alex started to struggle with suicidal thoughts and told his wife he wanted to die, he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. His numbers did eventually begin to improve, though he stated through Jeopardy! that if the immunotherapy stopped working, he'd return to chemotherapy, rather than continue with the option that was making him utterly miserable. He told The New York Times, "There comes a time where you have to make a decision as to whether you want to continue with such a low quality of life, or whether you want to just ease yourself into the next level. It doesn't bother me in the least."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Alex Trebek didn't have much to say after his last taping of Jeopardy!

According to Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards, Alex Trebek didn't anticipate that October 29, 2020, would be his last day on the show, per The Washington Post. So the host signed off like he always did, with his usual, comforting invitation to "see you again next week." But that wouldn't be the case. Ten days later, Alex died in his home in Los Angeles. Although he didn't leave Jeopardy! with an official farewell, he did begin his final episode a little differently with a brief, character-revealing message of who the Jeopardy! host was deep down, beyond his perfect suits and ultra-cool demeanor.   

Since the holiday season was kicking off at that time, he took a moment to directly ask viewers to consider their generosity given the unprecedented times: "I'd like you to open up your hands and open up your heart to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19. [...] We're trying to build a gentler, kinder society, and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we're going to get there." As a guy who avidly lived a life of service off-screen and who treated those around him, new acquaintances or not, with genuine kindness, one could argue that this simple request from the host spoke more truthfully to Alex Trebek's legacy as a giver rather than just a game show host whom everybody couldn't help but love and admire. 

Alex Trebek spent his last day exactly the way he wanted it

Alex Trebek's pancreatic cancer had come back stronger after he had his first round of chemotherapy. It was pretty unexpected, since his treatment had been seemingly successful, even putting him in remission for a short amount of time. When his last day came a year and a half after his bleak diagnosis, he had already surpassed the odds for someone with stage four pancreatic cancer, according to John Hopkins Medicine. For months, he had been suffering from immense pain that didn't seem to have an end in sight, and it sapped both his physical and emotional strength to continue on, as he wrote about in his memoir

However, Alex Trebek's last day was mercifully free from his usual discomfort. It actually seemed pretty peaceful, Jeopardy! producer Mike Rickard said to Today. During the pandemic, Alex had found yet another project to work on while he was confined to his house, which was fixing up a porch swing where he and his wife enjoyed many afternoons and evenings together. It was a more significant piece of furniture to him, considering that he had already thought about what he would prefer for his last day to be like. He wrote in his memoir, "I'll be perfectly content if that's how my story ends: sitting on the swing with the woman I love, my soul mate..." And fortunately, that's exactly what he did.