Alex Trebek died yesterday at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. For over 30 years he hosted Jeopardy, entertaining my parents, me, my children, three generations of fans. I will miss him!
What was it that made him so appealing? He was genuine, kind, cheerful, interested in people, a bit nerdy in an endearing way. He never sought the limelight; he tried to highlight the game’s contestants, not himself. Though he expressed a “tsk tsk” kind of disappointment when contestants missed the easy ones, his disapproval was gentle, far outshone by his enthusiasm over their success. He loved his job but never took himself too seriously. He always showed up looking his best, putting his best face forward, even in pain and discomfort (sometimes severe) during his cancer treatments. Publicly, he addressed his disease, likely to lead to his death, with steady calm, honesty, and hopefulness, as though his goal was to make us all feel better. He kept on living in full to the last.
Who would imagine that a quiz show host could rise to the status of role-model? Alex Trebek made me feel like the world was not just okay, but actually pretty cool. He was an icon of goodness, unbiased congeniality, quiet leadership. Steady as she goes. Thank you, Mr. Trebek.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.