‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek’s Widow Gave Ken Jennings a Heartfelt Gift on His First Day as Guest Host

by Jennifer Shea

Former “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings was the first person to fill in as guest host after late legendary host Alex Trebek died. And he had a daunting task before him. He had to lead contestants through nearly two months’ worth of shows before an audience of highly picky “Jeopardy!” fans, to whom Trebek was beloved.

Trebek’s widow Jean perhaps understood how difficult Jennings’ task was, because she bestowed on him a thoughtful gift before he began taping the first post-Trebek shows.

According to the New York Times, when Jennings got to the “Jeopardy!” studios last November to begin his first day as guest host, he found a pair of Trebek’s cuff links there. Along with them was a handwritten note from Jean.

‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek’s Widow Now Speaks on His Behalf

Trebek died on Nov. 8, 2020, after a two-year battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As perhaps the closest person to Trebek who was by his side when he passed, Jean now has the honor of speaking on her late husband’s behalf.

In a recent interview with “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie, Jean said that “it was a blessing to speak on his behalf.” She added that Trebek had faced his cancer diagnosis with the same unflinching honesty he applied to other people’s problems.

“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,” she said.

Trebek Said Jean Made Him a Better Host

In a 2016 interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Trebek had talked about his marriage to Jean and explained how their union made him a better person and a better “Jeopardy!” host.

“Viewers of the show have told me that over the past 20 years I have mellowed as a host,” he said. “My wife has helped to soften me. I try to be more understanding when players make mistakes, to ease the blow for them. I think that’s the main change that my wife has brought about in me.”

Trebek’s philosophy, he said, was: Go after your dreams. Don’t just wish, do, or you’ll end up with regrets. In the interview, Trebek also said his wife is more spiritual than he was. And indeed, in the wake of his cancer diagnosis, Jean reflected on their lives in Guideposts, a Christian magazine.

“We go on little walks together, if he’s up to it. We eat dinner together. We watch comedies and movies on TV,” she wrote. “Or we’ll sit in the swing in our backyard and sway to and fro, feeling the warmth of the sun, gazing at the flowers or up at the sky, knowing we are loved. Not just by each other but by a God who will see us through all things.”