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Alex Trebek's widow didn't realize extent of 'Jeopardy!' host's iconic status

Alex Trebek, who died on Nov. 8, 2020,

Alex Trebek, who died on Nov. 8, 2020, is seen with wife Jean Currivan-Trebek at the Daytime Emmys in 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Michael Buckner

Reflecting on the first anniversary of her husband Alex Trebek's death, the Long Island-raised widow of the iconic "Jeopardy!" host says she did not realize the vast extent of how much her spouse was beloved by the public.

"I knew the show was very successful and that people really liked him — a lot," Jean Currivan-Trebek, 57, says in the new issue of The Eden Magazine. But, she amends, she only began realizing "just how much he was adored by people from all walks of life when he made his public announcement that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We received cartons of mail every day filled with get-well cards, etc., at our home address, and I knew that the studio was receiving so much more. It was astonishing!"

Currivan-Trebek, who was raised in Huntington and graduated from Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, added, "In looking back, the fact that I did not identify Alex as an 'icon' was a gift. We were equal partners in a marriage, and we had our own personal growth issues to deal with just like any ordinary couple. It would have been really weird for both Alex and myself if I thought of him as some celebrity. He could just be himself at home, and that was it."

The couple had met in California, to where Currivan-Trebek had moved after having worked as a real estate project manager on Long Island. She was attending Pepperdine University and employed as a weekend bookkeeper for a business-executive friend of Trebek's, and met the divorced "Jeopardy!" host in 1988 at that friend's home. She and Trebek — who died Nov. 8, 2020, at age 80 — became engaged in September 1989 and married on April 30, 1990. They had children Matthew, 30, a Manhattan restaurateur, and Emily, 28, who works in real estate in Los Angeles. Trebek also has a stepdaughter, Nicky, in her 50s, from first wife Elaine Callei.

Calling the late host, "my dear husband and my most beloved friend," Currivan-Trebek said, "Like most long-term relationships, we had our ups and downs, but the truth of it was that we were very close and experienced a lot of life together. It was important to Alex to keep his personal life separate from his professional life. … For the most part, Alex and I enjoyed staying at home. When we did go out, it was perhaps for a quick dinner or movie every now and then, so it wasn't like we were always out in public for me to really notice his popularity."

On Monday, Currivan-Trebek posted an anti-bullying video her husband had had released posthumously in 2020, urging educators to take part in the Compassion Challenge to teach schoolchildren empathy. "My beloved husband passed away one year ago … one of his final messages was that of the importance of having compassion for each other," she wrote, urging fans to watch the 85-second video "in honor of Alex's beautiful and powerful life."

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