Alex Trebek’s widow, Jean Currivan-Trebek, revealed that she wasn’t aware what a culture icon he was until he began his very public cancer battle.
The actor announced in March of 2019 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and continued to update fans on his condition as he underwent treatment. He vowed to continue hosting and doing the job that he loved for as long as humanly possible, which only deepened “Jeopardy!” fans’ affection for him before his death in November of 2020.
While the world knows him as a cultural icon, Jean feels grateful that she was always able to just see him as her loving husband.
“Alex was my dear husband and my most beloved friend. 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,” she recently explained to The Eden Magazine. “It was important to Alex to keep his personal life separate from his professional life, unless it was ‘needed,’… i.e., attending 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.”
However, she says her perception of her husband and his impact on the rest of the world changed as soon as he made his cancer diagnosis public information.
“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,” she said.
While she was thrilled to see how many people loved her husband, she added that she considers being unaware of it for most of their marriage was a “gift.”
“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,” she explained. “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.”
Now, a little less than a year after her late husband’s death, she notes that she’s still grieving the loss.
“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,” she concluded. “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.”