Alex Trebek dies at 80: 6abc remembers long-running 'Jeopardy!' host

PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Trebek, who presided over the beloved quiz show "Jeopardy!" for more than 30 years with dapper charm and a touch of schoolmaster strictness, died Sunday. He was 80.

News of Trebek's death weighs heavily on our 6abc family. We've enjoyed a fond history with the game show host.

In fact, back in 2002, Alex took part in our annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. He made his way down the parade route on the 6abc float and helped us interview performers.

Then in 2013, Alex took time out of his busy schedule to stop by 6abc and say hello.

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Alex recorded this holiday message for us in late October



He made sure to meet as many people as he could, even his four-legged fans, and those who, at the time, weren't old enough to spell Jeopardy.

In 2018, he returned to our studios after moderating the Pennsylvania's gubernatorial debate. And once again, he not only spoke with employees and managers, he made sure to take photos with anyone who asked, no matter how long it took.

News of his cancer diagnosis would be revealed just five months after that visit.

The Canadian-born host, who made a point of informing fans about his health directly, spoke in a calm, even tone as he revealed his illness and hope for a cure in a video posted March 6, 2019.

In the video, Trebek said he was joining the 50,000 other Americans who receive such a diagnosis each year and that he recognized that the prognosis was not encouraging.

But Trebek said he intended to fight it and keep working, even joking that he needed to beat the disease because his "Jeopardy!" contract ran for three more years. Less than a week later, he opened the show with a message acknowledging the outpouring of kind words and prayers he'd received.

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'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek gets emotional over contestant's answer on November 11, 2019.



"Thanks to the - believe it or not - hundreds of thousands of people who have sent in tweets, texts, emails, cards and letters wishing me well," Trebek said. "I'm a lucky guy."

The program tapes weeks of shows in advance, and the remaining episodes with Trebek will air through Dec. 25, a Sony spokeswoman said.

Messages of grief and respect from former contestants, celebrities and the wider public quickly followed news of his loss.

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Alex Trebek surprises man with autism with phone call: Brian Taff reports during Action News at 12:30pm on October 29, 2019.



"Alex wasn't just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and
I'm grateful for every minute I got to spend with him," tweeted "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings. "Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family - which, in a way, included millions of us."

"It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex," James Holzhauer, another "Jeopardy!" star, posted on Twitter.

Trebek, who became its host in 1984, was a master of the format, engaging in friendly banter with contestants, appearing genuinely pleased when they answered correctly and, at the same time, moving the game along in a brisk no-nonsense fashion whenever people struggled for answers.

He never pretended to know the answers himself if he really didn't, deferring to the show's experts to decide whether a somewhat vague answer had come close enough to be counted as correct.

Born July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Trebek was sent off to boarding school by his Ukrainian father and French-Canadian mother when he was barely in his teens.

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After graduating high school, he spent a summer in Cincinnati to be close to a girlfriend, then returned to Canada to attend college. After earning a philosophy degree from the University of Ottawa, he went to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Co., starting as a staff announcer and eventually becoming a radio and TV reporter.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1997. Trebek's first marriage, to Elaine Callei, ended in divorce. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, and they had two children, Emily and Matthew. Trebek lived with his family in Los Angeles' Studio City section, not far from Hollywood.

Trebek is survived by his wife, their two children and his stepdaughter, Nicky.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.