Alex Trebek, who has hosted the popular game show Jeopardy! since 1984, has died at the age of 80. The official Jeopardy! Twitter account confirmed the television personality passed away peacefully at home early on Sunday morning, surrounded by family and friends.
In March 2019, Trebek was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. At the time, the host said was undergoing chemotherapy treatments but intended to continue hosting his longtime trivia series. Earlier this year, he updated fans again to say that, while there were “not so good days” that led him to question whether treatment was worth it, he realized he had become “an inspiration, and a cheerleader of sorts of the value of living and hope” and planned to live his life with as much zeal as humanly possible.
When the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shutdown Jeopardy!, Trebek kept up his routine by writing a memoir. Published in July, The Answer Is . . .: Reflections on My Life took fans behind the scenes of the show, and Trebek’s own struggles with cancer. “I’m going to stick with this current protocol, then that’s it,” he wrote of his plans for chemotherapy. “If it doesn’t work I’ll probably stop treatment. It wasn’t an easy conversation, and it isn’t any easier writing these words. Quality of life was an important consideration.”
Trebek resumed work this summer, and new episodes of Jeopardy! began airing in September. The set had changed — plexiglass walls, socially distanced contestants — but Trebek’s enthusiasm for education, insight, and trivia-fueled entertainment was unfazed. January’s “Greatest of All Time” tournament was seen as a possible off-ramp for the host, but as Ken Jennings told Polygon at the time, it would be hard for anyone — on the show or in the audience — to imagine Jeopardy! without the host. “Alex is irreplaceable to me,” Jennings said.
The host’s impact on his global audience may never fully stated, but earlier this month, one contestant gave what amounted to the ultimate tribute. Through tears, Burt Thakur thanked Trebek for always being there, hosting Jeopardy! and, in his case, helping him learn English. This is what Trebek means to nearly everyone who tuned into the show over the years.