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Local Jeopardy! Contestants Remember Alex Trebek

Elizabeth Johnson with Alex Trebek photo
Courtesy photo
/
Jeopardy/Sony Productions
Elizabeth Johnson, with Alex Trebek on the Jeopardy! set in 2018.

For 37 years, the TV game show Jeopardy! was hosted by Alex Trebek. The legendary host died of pancreatic cancer two months ago, and the final episode he taped before his death airs tonight. Producers of the show say tonight’s program will include a special goodbye.

We asked a couple of Jeopardy! contestants from mid-Michigan to reflect on the show and their time around Alex Trebek.

ELIZABETH JOHNSON OF DELTA TOWNSHIP COMPETED ON JEOPARDY! IN APRIL OF 2018.

It was an experience that I felt I'd been preparing for my whole life. I was always the person that people said, “you ought to be on Jeopardy! someday,” so it was so exciting to finally get to California, to step onto that set, see the big blue gameboard, and then watch Alex Trebek walk out and start the show.

Alex Trebek really was Alex Trebek really was Jeopardy!. The first thing people asked me other than how did I do was “what was Alex like?” What they don't know is you don't get to spend a whole lot of time with Alex. You're not going out for beer and pizza after the show, but even those few minutes that you spend talking with him during the interview segment, chatting when the show gets over, he was filled with such warmth and calm, good cheer that he made everyone feel comfortable. You didn't feel like you were meeting a celebrity or a stranger because he was someone you saw on your TV set every single night.

I have a Jeopardy! bookshelf in my family room that features a an eight by 10 photograph of me and Alex taken for the show. I've got a Jeopardy! Alex Trebek bobblehead that a friend gave me for Christmas, Jeopardy! books with his picture on the cover, his memoir that someone gave me for my birthday this year, a Jeopardy! pen, and even a glass that says “make it a true Daily Double,” which I got to do when I was on the show.

I think is going to be really sad watching Alex's final episode Friday. I know the show will go on, and I will keep watching Jeopardy!, but it's not going to be the same without Alex reading the clues and encouraging contestants to do their best.

DAN SMITH OF EAST LANSING APPEARED ON JEOPARDY! IN 2009, WINNING THREE TIMES AND EARNING $69,200

Dan Smith with Alex Trebek photo
Credit Courtesy photo / Jeopardy/Sony Productions
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Jeopardy/Sony Productions
Dan Smith competed in four Jeopardy! games in 2009, winning three.

It came at a really good time for me. I was finishing my Ph.D dissertation, and my advisor called it the Trebek fellowship. That allowed me to finish my dissertation.

I had two really good moments with Alex Trebek, two good conversations at the end of my first show and my last show. In the first show, I had done really well in the Seinfeld category, and he got me to do our own interpretation of Elaine's bad dancing on Seinfeld, under the credits on that episode. Then in my last episode, in his avuncular fashion, he gave me some advice: that I had been saying that I would use the money to help pay off my student loans, and he suggested that I should do something fun. So, I also did take a trip to Bulgaria for a friend's wedding, and to London the week after that.

I'll be watching his last episode tonight and thinking fondly of my time with him.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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