Alex Trebek, the iconic host of Jeopardy! has died at age 80 following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Representatives for Trebek and his beloved game show confirmed the news on Twitter on Sunday. Trebek reportedly passed away at home earlier this morning, surrounded by friends and family. The Canadian-born host has been battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer since March of 2019, though he has continued to host Jeopardy! throughout that time.
Fans have often marveled at his strength and calm throughout the process, and he has not been shy with updates about his chemotherapy and other treatments. Over the last year and a half, Trebek has become a beacon for other cancer patients and survivors, cultivating a community on TV and online and inspiring others to keep fighting the disease. Many mourned him on social media as the news spread on Sunday.
Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex. pic.twitter.com/Yk2a90CHIM— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 8, 2020
Jeopardy! issued a press release shortly after Trebek's passing, with quotes from those he worked with. Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra mourned the "legend" and beloved family member of Sony Pictures. "For 37 amazing years, Alex was the comforting voice, that moment of escape and entertainment at the end of a long, hard day for millions of people around the world," he said. "He was the heart and soul of Jeopardy! and he will be deeply missed by everyone who made him part of their lives. Our hearts go out to Jean, Matthew, Emily and Nicky."
Executive producer of Jeopardy!, Mike Richards echoed the sentiments, calling it an "enormous loss" for the Jeopardy! staff, crew and all of his millions of fans the world over. "He was a legend of the industry that we were all lucky to watch night after night for 37 years. Working beside him for the past year and a half as he heroically continued to host Jeopardy! was an incredible honor. His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen. His constant desire to learn, his kindness, and his professionalism will be with all of us forever."
Trebek had several other health issues in the past decade. In December 2007, he suffered a minor heart attack at his home, but did not miss any Jeopardy! episodes. He also suffered another mild heart attack in June 2012.
In January 2018, Trebek announced that production on the show would be delayed while he recovered from a December 2017 surgery for a subdural hematoma after suffering a fall in October. He had blood clots removed from his brain and was expected to make a full recovery.
Even when the cancer diagnosis came, Trebek maintained good humor. When asked if he would continue hosting Jeopardy!, he said: "Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!" Trebek told fans with his typical wit. "So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you."
Trebek also survived a dramatic robbery in 2011 while visiting San Francisco to host the National Geographic World Tournament. He found a woman going through his things in his hotel. She tried to escape, but Trebek put his underwear on and chased after her. During the incident, Trebek snapped an Achilles tendon and was forced to wear a cast for six weeks.
Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario on July 22, 1940, and began his broadcasting career in Canada. He started hosting programs on CBC in 1963. Ten years later, he finally moved to the U.S., starting with NBC's The Wizard of Odds.
After several short stints on game shows like Double Dare, The $128,000 Question and Pitfall, Trebek found his permanent home on Jeopardy! in 1984. Before his death, Trebek had hosted over 7,500 episodes and became a cultural icon around the world. When Trebek reached 6,829 episodes in 2014, he broke the Guinness World Record for most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter on the same show.
Whenever asked about retirement, it was not a topic he wanted to approach. While on Fox News in 2012, he said he thought about it, but, "I'm torn because I enjoy doing the show so much.”
In a 2014 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he sparked retirement rumors, but he signed a contract extension instead. "When it happens it will probably happen the same way it happened when I shaved my mustache in 2001: It will happen on a whim," Trebek said in 2014. "I will decide at that moment, 'This is it. Leave me an extra 30 seconds at the end of the program so I can say goodbye.'"
Trebek became such a part of the American cultural landscape that he was mocked in Saturday Night Live repeatedly. Will Ferrell played him in Celebrity Jeopardy sketches, where he was tormented by Norm MacDonald's Burt Reynolds and Darrell Hammond's Sean Connery. Seeing as Trebek had his own wry sense of humor, Trebek welcomed the parodies.
"It doesn't bother me," Trebek told the New York Post in 2017. "If they’re spoofing you, poking fun at you or mentioning you it’s because you’re part of American pop culture, and that’s a good thing, I think."
Trebek was married twice, to Elaine Trebek Kares from 1974 to 1981 and to Jean Currivan-Trebek from 1990 until his death. Trebek is also survived by his two children with Jean, Matthew and Emily.