Alex Trebek had waged a very public fight against pancreatic cancer for nearly two years, but continued taping his program until recently.
"Jeopardy!" game show host Alex Trebek has died at the age of 80, and his passing was mourned by fans who called the brainy quizmaster a nightly source of information and sheer joy.
The death of Canadian-born Trebek, who in March 2019 revealed his diagnosis of stage IV pancreatic cancer, was shared on the show's official Twitter account. Trebek passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends, the show's tweet said.
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
It quickly drew condo lences from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others.
"We have lost an icon," Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau said Trebek instilled "a love for trivia" for millions around the world. Trebek was much loved in Canada, and he was proud of his Canadian roots.
We have lost an icon. Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who are mourning this tremendous loss. pic.twitter.com/XoobAfJwBv— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 8, 2020
"Alex Trebek was the pride of Sudbury and a strong supporter of his alma mater the University of Ottawa," said Erin O'Toole, the leader of the main Conservative opposition party in Canada.
Trebek donated millions to his alma mater over the years, and in a 2019 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., he said Ottawa, where he got his first broadcast experience with the CBC, was his favourite city in Canada.
For some fans, news of Trebek's death surpassed the world's biggest news story - Joe Biden winning the US presidency.
"I don't really care about election lawsuits or transition plans, I just want to dwell on how much Alex Trebek and JEOPARDY! meant to me as a small kid who turned into a trivia maniac. It was always the best game show on television by far. Nothing approached it, or him," said a Twitter user identified as @EsotericCD.
I don't really care about election lawsuits or transition plans, I just want to dwell on how much Alex Trebek and JEOPARDY! meant to me as a small kid who turned into a trivia maniac. It was always the best game show on television by far. Nothing approached it, or him.— Jeff B., who on earth is this guy?? (@EsotericCD) November 8, 2020
Twenty years after "Jeopardy!" first aired in 1964, Trebek became the face of the show and turned it into a ratings powerhouse.
"Jeopardy!" which requires contestants to display their knowledge of a broad range of trivia topics by providing their answers in the form of a question, has consistently drawn more than 20 million viewers a week in the United States and Canada, making it the most-watched quiz show in those markets.
Its ratings have risen even higher when contestants have racked up several weeks of consecutive wins.
A 36-year run
He previously hosted other game shows, including "Double Dare" and "Classic Concentration," as well as hosting the National Geographic Bee for 25 years.
But it was his time at "Jeopardy!" a 36-year run almost unheard of by television standards, and his clear intelligence, gentlemanly aplomb and sly good humour that earned him the eternal devotion of millions of viewers.
He also won a slew of awards. Trebek was a five-time daytime Emmy Award winner. He had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He was so deeply immersed in American popular culture that Trebek, or his imitators, appeared in numerous movies and TV shows; comedian Will Ferrell played him on "Saturday Night Live"; he once even drew headlines by shaving his signature moustache.
Sometimes two or even three generations of viewers would gather before televisions to watch him.
One contestant, Burt Thakur, grew tearful on a recently aired episode when he told Trebek how, as a small child in India, he watched the show on his grandfather's lap.
"I realised English due to you. And so, my grandfather who raised me ― I’m going to get tears proper now ― I used to take a seat on his lap and watch you day by day."
Trebek received a flood of supportive mail after announcing his Stage 4 cancer. "I'm going to fight this," he told his fans. Many wrote to tell him they were inspired by his battle.
He had had earlier health scares, including two heart attacks and a bad auto accident, but always came back.
George Alexander Trebek was born on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. His father was a Ukrainian immigrant; his mother a French-speaking Canadian.
With a degree in philosophy in hand, he went to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1961; by 1966 he was hosting a high school quiz show.
Trebek moved to the United States in 1973 to host a new NBC game show, "The Wizard of Odds."
He took over the reins at "Jeopardy!" in 1984 when a friend of his, original host Art Fleming, declined to return.
Trebek held the record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter, at 6,829, according to Variety.
"You work hard, you do your best," he said with typical modesty at one awards show.
He and his wife Jean Currivan have two children.