Alex died in November of 2020 at age 80 after a very lengthy and public battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Not only was he the beloved host of the long-running game show, but Alex and Jean are responsible for some impressive charitable work.
As a result, they landed a spot on NBC’s upcoming primetime special “Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List” in which various people who made a positive impact on the world during the challenging year that was 2020 are acknowledged. Jean sat down for an interview with co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, an excerpt of which was shared on the “Today” show Wednesday.
In the preview, she discusses the outpouring of support Alex saw after announcing his cancer battle. She noted that she was grateful he got to see how much he meant to people before he died.
Alex Trebek’s wife, Jean, opened up about him in her first interview since his death in November. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)
“Yes, I was. And I think Alex was too,” she said when asked if she was surprised by the response. “I think one of the beautiful things, the blessings that came, if you can call it a blessing, was that he got to really see the outpouring of love and admiration that he gave to the world. And some people just, you know, you don’t see that while you’re still embodied, you don’t get to really witness all the love that people feel for you. And I know that that was in and of itself a huge inspiration for Alex.”
Elsewhere in the interview, which airs in full on Saturday, May 1, she explained how she and the family are coping with the loss of their husband and dad.
“I think right now, talking with you, I’m good. You know? I’m good. I absolutely have moments of waves of grief that just come over me. I miss him a lot,” she said.
She also discusses her husband’s decision to be open with the public about his cancer battle, which went on for more than a year in which he continued to do his job as the host of the show.
“I think that is one of Alex’s gifts was that he could be very resolute and know that the truth will not hurt you and he wanted to empower people to move through whatever challenge they had in life with a sense of inner strength, inner dignity and love, and love,” Jean told the host.
Alex Trebek died in November at age 80. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
Although the show’s schedule was impacted, like many, during the coronavirus pandemic, Trebek previously told “Good Morning America” that his hosting gig was beloved to him and said he planned to continue doing it as long as he could.
“It sure as hell would be nice to get back to work,” the host said in July. “I miss it. It’s been part of my life, a very important part of my life for 36 years.”
In the same interview, he discussed how difficult it was for him to ask Jean to help him through his cancer battle.
“I apologize to her and explain that it has nothing to do with my love for her or my feelings for her,” he said. “It just has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m a terrible burden to her. And that bothers me tremendously.”
Getting choked up, he continued: “She says you’re not a burden. She’s a saint, but she has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out. Always putting out to help me get over difficult moments. And there have been some difficult moments. And I… I’m just in awe of the way she handles it.”