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Former Shaker Heights 'Jeopardy!' contestant mourns death of Alex Trebek, recalls appearance on show

Posted at 10:31 PM, Nov 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 11:04:31-05

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Alex Trebek, host of "Jeopardy!" since 1984, died Sunday at the age of 80.

The game show shared the news of his passing Sunday morning.

In March 2019, Trebek announced his diagnosis with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He immediately began treatment, but made no plans to retire.

“He really was a guy who touched a lot of people’s lives, even ones he never met,” former contestant Steven Oppenheim said. “He’s irreplaceable.”

So what is… Trebek’s legacy?

“It does sort of feel like losing a member of the family because he’s in your living room for 30, 35 years,” Oppenheim said. “He leaves behind a legacy of inspiring a lot of kids to love knowledge.”

As tributes to the quiz show legend are pouring in from around the world, the Shaker Heights native recalled his two appearances on the game show in early 2019.

“Being only 15 or 20 feet apart from Alex and seeing the big board that you’ve seen your whole life,” Oppenheim said. “I’ll always remember what he was saying to me. ‘Enjoy it Steve-o! Steve-o’s on this like a shot!’ That just rings through my head sometimes.”

Oppenheim said Trebek influenced his love for studying from the time he was old enough to read.

“The whole game show boom definitely wouldn’t have happened without Jeopardy! It became America’s favorite quiz show,” Oppenheim said.

But with nearly 37 years of television under his belt, Oppenheim said Daily Doubles and big wins aren’t the most impactful treasures Trebek leaves behind.

“I think for so many people like me, that was Jeopardy! I grew up watching it with my dad pretty much every night,” Oppenheim said.

He noted that Trebek’s ability to heal and unite families was pure and unmatched.

“I think that a lot of families that wouldn’t otherwise have spent so much time together huddled around the TV after dinner,” Oppenheim said.

Oppenheim said Trebek’s legacy cannot be adequately summed up in words.

“Nobody’s going to be able to fill the shoes that Alex left and it leaves a huge void,” Oppenheim said. “Because there’s going to be nobody who just owns the show like he did. He is Jeopardy!”

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