It’s every trivia enthusiast’s dream to compete on “Jeopardy!,” and the day Sally Neumann was set to appear, she was elated and riddled with nerves.
“You wait your whole life just with the idea that you could possibly get on “Jeopardy!” If you’re a trivia buff, it’s like just the absolute, most amazing, most glorious thing to possibly achieve,” said Neumann, a mental health counselor in Seattle, who competed on the show in 2016.
But the most magical moment came when host Alex Trebek appeared around the corner and strided toward her podium to shake her hand and ask her and the other contestants the questions about their lives.
“He’s just so close to you, and you can’t believe it,” she said. “He looks you right in the eye and he’s really listening to what you’re saying. It literally feels like, ‘Oh my gosh, did somebody put me inside the television?’ ”
Trebek, who died Sunday after announcing more than a year earlier that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, left an “indelible mark” on Neumann and several Seattle-area contestants who competed on the show and interacted with the host.
In his more than 30 years hosting the quiz show, he inspired generations of studious competitors to research geography, literature and history and sparked a passionate community of television trivia fans, including many who reside in the Pacific Northwest.
Lauren Schneider Lipton, a teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School who competed this year on the show, offered her deepest condolences to Trebek’s family, friends, and the entire “Jeopardy!” community.
“I am saddened to learn of his passing, and feel privileged to have a tiny place in Jeopardy! history while he was the host,” Schneider Lipton said in an emailed statement. “Alex Trebek was a cultural beacon for the importance of lifelong learning, and he will be missed.”
Ryan Fenster, a seven-time “Jeopardy!” winner from SeaTac, said he will miss Trebek “terribly.”
“Alex Trebek was a great man who knew his job inside and out,” Fenster said in an email.
“Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” champion and Seattle resident Ken Jennings tweeted that Trebek was a “lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.”
Prerecorded episodes hosted by Trebek will air through Dec. 25, according to a message on the show’s website. The show is not announcing plans for a new host at this time, although Jennings’ name has been floated as a top contender by contestants and fans.
Nicole Neroulias Gupte, a nonprofit communications consultant who competed on “Jeopardy!” in 2018, recalled a time when Trebek told the studio audience a story about a DIY project he was working on to protect his roof from a woodpecker.
“We all had a chuckle about Alex Trebek’s nemesis being a little bird, and the visual of him up on his roof, a hammer in one hand and shaking his fist with the other,” said Neroulias Gupte, who lives in Queen Anne and Delhi, India, in an email.
When she was on the show in 2016, Neumann said Trebek would answer audience questions during commercial breaks. He often answered similar inquiries over and over about what he likes to do in his personal time.
“He didn’t have to do that. He’s like a big celebrity and could go hide off the back and do whatever they do, but he came out and talked to the audience,” she said.
He enjoyed working on his home — painting, refurbishing his bathroom, installing new floors. And he was an ardent supporter of muskox refuges in Canada.
“He is a true institution. He’s like the president of trivia,” Neumann said. “He’s Americana, even though he’s Canadian.” (Trebek became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988.)