Jean Trebek didn't know just how much of an icon her Jeopardy! host husband, Alex Trebek, was.
In an interview with Eden magazine, Jean — who was married to the TV star for 30 years — talked about how they were homebodies, so she didn't really "notice his popularity." And that is a good thing, she said, because it allowed them to be "equal partners" and he could "just be himself at home."
"Alex was my dear husband and my most beloved friend," she said of the iconic game show host who lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8. "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."
The InsideWink editor said it "was important to Alex to keep his personal life separate from his professional life, unless it was 'needed,'" meaning they had to attend "an award show or something like that. 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."
That changed when he went public with his cancer diagnosis in March 2019.
"I knew the show was very successful and that people really liked him — a lot," said Jean, who met Alex four years into his famous hosting job. "I started 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 ... at our home address, and I knew that the studio was receiving so much more. It was astonishing!"
Jean, who was 24-years Alex's junior, 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."
Ahead of the first anniversary of his death, Jean also spoke about how she's been coping with grief.
"I’m reminded of what Queen Elizabeth ll said when Prince Phillip recently passed away. She said, 'Grief is the price you pay for having loved.' It’s true. There are moments of my day that I miss Alex so much, and I just have to allow myself those times. Sometimes I feel as if he’s been on a long vacation, and then there are other times that the reality of the absence of his presence is really palatable. I find that being with my family and friends or doing something creative and new is really helpful."
Trebek's death led to a big search for the next host of Jeopardy! Immediately, the show went with guest hosts to audition potential replacements. In August, it was announced that executive producer Mike Richards would take over as syndicated show host with Mayim Bialik as emcee of prime-time specials. Days into the job, Richards stepped down after offensive and sexist comments he made were resurfaced. He later left the show altogether.