‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek Survived Falling Through Ice in Frozen Lake as a Kid

by Jennifer Shea
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“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek was such an interesting individual that many people want to know what shaped him. What experiences in his youth helped make him the man he became?

One experience clearly left a lasting impression on Trebek: a near-death tumble into icy water while he was just a kid.

When he was only 7 years old, Trebek accidentally plunged into a frozen lake, Trebek said in his memoir “The Answer Is…,” according to the New York Times.

Alex Trebek Survived Falling Through Ice as a Child

It was the middle of winter in Sudbury, which is in Northern Ontario, Canada, and conditions were harsh. Trebek made it out of there. But afterward, he came down with painful rheumatism that stuck with him for the rest of his childhood.

Rheumatism is a joint or connective tissue disorder that causes chronic pain. It happens when the body’s immune system goes haywire and attacks its own tissues, per the Mayo Clinic. It often results in painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion.

Trebek reportedly had a difficult childhood marked by intermittent poverty. His father was a chef at a local hotel who drank heavily, according to Biography.com.

On His Book, ‘The Answer Is…’

To write his memoir, Trebek had to dig up memories going back 60 to 75 years, he said in an interview with NPR last July.

“I started recollecting things that I had not given any thought to in many, many years,” Trebek said. “And it felt good. It was a way of reviewing my entire life, and that just brought me a great deal of satisfaction.”

In the book, Trebek shares memories and holds forth on marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality and philanthropy. Writing it wasn’t exactly a therapeutic experience for him, but it was “reasonably pleasant.”

“I say reasonably pleasant because we were under pressure. We put it together very quickly in about six weeks,” Trebek said. “The written part came about fairly easily. I would sit at my desk talking on the telephone… to the editor in New York and just begin thinking about episodes in my past.”

“It flowed, and it flowed quickly,” he added.

Trebek’s memoir also delves into his time at a Catholic boarding school. He nearly got thrown out, AARP Magazine reports, because he started challenging one particular priest’s authority. That was around the time his parents separated, and Trebek became a bit rebellious. His father had to beg the principal to let Alex stay.

But Trebek made it through school and then to America, where he would switch from journalism to game shows and find his calling. And his millions of “Jeopardy!” fans are glad that he did.  

Outsider.com