Trebek died in November of 2020 at age 80 after a very lengthy and public battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was very open about the physical and mental strain that the diagnosis took on him, but made it clear to fans that he planned to continue hosting “Jeopardy!” for as long as he could. Trebek managed to continue the job he loved until he died.
Jean opened up about her late husband for the first time in an interview with “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie as part of the NBC special “Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List” on Saturday. In it, she revealed just how important it was for him to be open with fans about what he was going through.
“His gift was that he could be very resolute and he knew that the truth will not hurt you,” Jean explained in the interview, which aired on “Today” Monday. “And he wanted to, I think, empower people to move through whatever challenge they had in life with a sense of inner strength, inner dignity, and love.”
Despite his deteriorating health, Trebek continued to host the beloved game show, which Jean explained was as much for him as it was for the myriad of fans who have only ever known one man behind the podium.
“Yeah. Doing ‘Jeopardy’ really gave him a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning,” she revealed. “And I would say we all need that. We all need a purpose.”
She added: “Yeah. I think, Savannah, that I knew his life was going to, on Earth here, would wrap up quickly when he could no longer do the show. But he wanted to finish strong. And he did. And he lived life on his own terms.”
Since his passing, Trebek’s fans have come out in droves to honor the late TV personality. Jean finds the outpouring of love and support to be bittersweet, noting that she misses her husband of 30 years all the time. However, she knows he would be shocked at how many people were moved to pay tribute to him.
“I think he would have been shocked, honestly. I think he knew he was loved and revered, but I don’t think to this level,” she explained. “I think that the support and the love that’s been shown since he passed has really been on another level. And I think he would have really appreciated it. I think he — I think it would mean a lot to him.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Jean discussed her late husband’s philanthropic efforts as well as his desire to be “part of the solution” to fighting homelessness.