(NewsNation Now) — Game show host and television host Alex Trebek died Sunday, “Jeopardy!” confirmed in a tweet. He was 80 years old.
Trebek died at home early Sunday with family and friends surrounding him, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said in a statement.
Trebek was battling pancreatic cancer at the time of his death. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and announced his diagnosis publicly in March 2019.
In the video announcing his diagnosis, 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.
“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.”
He had been host of “Jeopardy!” since 1984 and continued to host the show throughout his chemotherapy treatment.
Trebek said in July he was responding exceptionally well to treatment for pancreatic cancer and expected to mark his two-year survival next February.
The Canadian-born Trebek was more than qualified for the Jeopardy! host job, having started his game show career on “Reach for the Top” in his native country.
Moving to the U.S. in 1973, he appeared on “The Wizard of Odds,” “Classic Concentration,” “To Tell the Truth,” “High Rollers,” “The $128,000 Question” and “Double Dare.”
“Jeopardy!” made him famous. He won five Emmys as its host, and received stars on both the Hollywood and Canadian walks of fame. In 2012, the show won a prestigious Peabody Award.
He taped his daily “Jeopardy!” shows at a frenetic pace, recording as many as 10 episodes (two weeks’ worth) in just two days. After what was described as a mild heart attack in 2007, he was back at work in just a month.
He was a master of the format, engaging in friendly banter with contestants and appearing genuinely pleased when they answered correctly.
He was also able to move the game along in a brisk no-nonsense fashion whenever people struggled for answers.
In a January 2019 interview with The Associated Press, Trebek discussed his decision to keep going with “Jeopardy!”
“It’s not as if I’m overworked — we tape 46 days a year,” he said. But he acknowledged he would retire someday, if he lost his edge or the job was no longer fun, adding: “And it’s still fun.”
His memoir, “The Answer Is … Reflections On My Life, ”was released in July.
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.
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 Callel, 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.
“Today we lost a legend and a beloved member of the Sony Pictures family,” said Tony Vinciquerra, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “For 37 amazing years, Alex was that comforting voice, that moment of escape and entertainment at the end of a long, hard day for millions of people around the world. He was the heart and soul of JEOPARDY! and he will be deeply missed by everyone who made him part of their lives. Our hearts go out to Jean, Matthew, Emily, and Nicky.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.