‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek’s Wife Jean Recalled a Contestant’s Touching Gesture ‘That Meant the World’ to Her Husband

Fans of the iconic game show Jeopardy! are still feeling the void left by legendary host Alex Trebek. The quiz master battled pancreatic cancer which led to his death in November 2020, leaving behind his wife, Jean, of 30 years, and three adult children. Jean recently spoke of Trebek’s devotion to Jeopardy! and how a contestant almost moved him to tears.

'Jeopardy!' star Alex Trebek and his wife, Jean Trebek smile for cameras as they attend the celebratory dinner after the special tribute to Sophia Loren during the AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi at Dolby Theatre
‘Jeopardy!’ star Alex Trebek and his wife, Jean Trebek | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

Alex Trebek’s wife called ‘Jeopardy!’ her husband’s ‘purpose’

In a recent interview with Today Show star Savannah Guthrie, Jean revealed that manning the iconic Jeopardy! lectern inspired her husband to keep going.

“Doing Jeopardy! really gave him a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning,” she told Guthrie. “And I would say we all need that. We all need a purpose.”

The outpouring of support Trebek received from viewers gave him motivation to keep coming back to work, even when his health was declining. Jean referred to a standout message of encouragement when contestant Dhruv Gaur used his “Final Jeopardy!” moment to write, “We love you, Alex,” with a heart drawing.

“When that contestant wrote that, you could see him, like, ‘Oh, don’t make me cry here, but I love it,”’ Jean revealed of her husband’s emotional moment. “I think that meant the world to him.”

RELATED: ‘Jeopardy!’: Ken Jennings Described Alex Trebek as ‘More the Goofy Uncle Than the Stern Dad’

‘Jeopardy!’ icon ‘wanted to finish strong’

Trebek’s 28-year-old daughter, Emily, also shared thoughts on her father’s legacy during the interview, and how the massive fan response to his illness and death surpassed any expectations.

“I think he would’ve been shocked, honestly,” Emily remarked. “I think he knew he was loved and revered, but I don’t think to this level — I think that the support and the love that’s been shown since he passed has really been on another level. And I think he would’ve really appreciated it. I think it would mean a lot to him.”

Jean noted her husband’s tenacity and commitment to staying at the Jeopardy! podium as long as he was able.

“I think that I knew his life on Earth here would wrap up quickly when he could no longer do the show,” she said. “But he wanted to finish strong, and he did. And he lived life on his own terms.”

Alex Trebek had a reason for telling his story

Trebek was transparent about his cancer diagnosis from the beginning, and shared the news of his health in a special message to his fans. Jean revealed that her husband wanted to be an example of living life in spite of challenging circumstances.

“I think that is one of Alex’s gifts was that he could be very resolute and know that the truth will not hurt you,” Jean shared. “He wanted to empower people to move through whatever challenge they had in life with a sense of inner strength, inner dignity and love.”

RELATED: How ‘Jeopardy’ Host Alex Trebek Helped His Daughter in a Career That Has Nothing To Do With Television

The game show icon’s philanthropic endeavors included his work with Worldvision and the United Service Organizations. Jean recently dedicated a new homeless shelter in Los Angeles that was partly funded by the Trebeks through the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, according to Today.com.

“He was deeply grateful to be part of the solution,” Jean said. “We both saw the rise of homelessness. Now we have this beautiful bridge house that’s being built right now to help people.”

While guest hosts continue to head the quiz board on Jeopardy!, Trebek’s fans know the iconic host can never truly be replaced.