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Insight: How Alex Trebek brought my family closer together

'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek's death leaves a hole in the lives of my family and millions of others

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JEOPARDY!'s Alex Trebek is pictured on a laptop screen on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Phoenix. Trebek passed away on Nov. 8, 2020.


Longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek passed away Sunday morning at age 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Trebek’s gentle demeanor and mastery of the syndicated quiz show gave my family something to enjoy together through the best of times and the worst of times.

Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the show: sitting on my dad's lap in awe as he correctly answered an entire category of questions and getting the satisfaction of beating him to a correct response as I got older.

On nights when one of my parents was working late, my family's collective love for Trebek and the show he led was so great that my sister and I paused the DVR until we'd all be home to take guesses at the questions together.

When the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the nation and continued into the summer, forcing "Jeopardy!" to air re-runs, we continued our tradition of finishing dinner just in time to run to the living room and play along with an old episode together, bringing a sense of normalcy to a very abnormal time.

The show's simple format, which encourages at-home participation, represents only a fraction of how "Jeopardy!" has kept my family close over the years. Most of that credit goes to Trebek, the one-of-a-kind host with a warm and friendly personality, who invited us into his studio each and every weeknight.

Trebek made his viewers feel just as welcomed as his contestants. His excitement at correct responses, the laughs and inside jokes he shared with competitors and the compassion he exuded made him feel like a part of the family.

There are a couple of recent moments on the show that come to mind when remembering Trebek's profound impact on so many families.

In an episode that aired Nov. 5, Burt Thakur, a "Jeopardy!" winner and project manager from Palm Springs, thanked Trebek for helping him learn English as a child.

In an episode from November 2019, Brown University student Dhruv Gaur got Trebek choked up over his heartwarming response to an episode's final question: "We love you Alex!"

Trebek made "Jeopardy!" more than a game show: he turned a simple quiz competition into a place of gathering and coming together for my family and millions of others across the world.

We'll miss you, Alex.


Reach the reporter at bdoemel@asu.edu or follow @brockdoemel on Twitter.

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