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Alex Trebek’s last ‘Jeopardy!’ show aired posthumously Friday, touching one Spokane contestant

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 9, 2021

Alex Trebek attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza in New York on Feb. 15, 2015.  (Tribune News Service)
Alex Trebek attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza in New York on Feb. 15, 2015. (Tribune News Service)

After 37 years and more than 8,000 episodes as host of “Jeopardy!” Alex Trebek’s final show aired Friday night, marking two months since he died from pancreatic cancer.

At the end of the episode, “Jeopardy!” played a video showing clips of Trebek and the set changing over nearly 40 years.

Lynn Swanbom Yount – who won more than $10,000 on the show in 2009 while she was working at The Spokesman-Review – said meeting him felt like meeting someone she’d known forever.

“Just from having watched him literally my whole life, you just kind of feel like you’ve lived a life with somebody,” Yount said. “It dredges up your own associations and memories from when ‘Jeopardy!’ used to look like that. That was a life pretty well lived.”

In the first of his five final episodes aired this month, Trebek spoke a heartfelt message that, to Yount, “sounded like a farewell.”

“You’ll recall that about a month ago, I asked all of you to take a moment to give thanks for all of the blessings that you enjoy in your lives. Now, today, a different kind of message: This is the season of giving,” Trebek said. “I’d like you to open up your hands and open up your hearts to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19. People who are suffering through no fault of their own. We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in, just a little bit, we’re gonna get there.”

Yount said Trebek could seem distant from the “common man” because of his intelligence and entertainer persona, but in person, he seemed professional and humble.

People across the world mourned Trebek’s death Friday.

In an Op-Ed for CNN, contestant Albert Thakur – who sparked a viral moment when he told Trebek on air that he learned to speak English watching “Jeopardy!” on his grandfather’s lap – paid tribute to Trebek.

“I got to tell a man I’d never met how much of an impact he had on my life, and got to thank him,” Thakur wrote.

All-time “Jeopardy!” winner and interim guest host Ken Jennings noted on Twitter Friday that Trebek’s world record of 8,000 episodes accounted for “more Tonight Shows than Carson did, three times as many Daily Shows as Jon Stewart.”

At least five contestants on the show came from the Spokane area. Most recently, Kate Allison, a public defender in Spokane, competed in 2019. The year before, Nine Mile Falls resident Staci Huffman won $30,000 on the show.

Staci Huffman, a CPA from Nine Mile Falls, appears with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek in December 2018.  (Jeopardy Productions Inc.)
Staci Huffman, a CPA from Nine Mile Falls, appears with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek in December 2018. (Jeopardy Productions Inc.)

For Yount, Trebek’s death is not tragic in the same way a sudden death like Kobe Bryant’s was. It came with a measure of celebration, too.

“I saw a clip of him talking about how much sympathy he got after he shared his diagnosis, and people celebrated him then instead of only after his death,” Yount said. “He just had such a great attitude and mindset. I’m just so thankful he did really well with the diagnosis he had and he just kept working. He was able to take stock and do it well.”

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