Alex Trebek's widow, Jean, didn't fully understand how big an icon her late husband was to "Jeopardy!" fans.
She admitted in a The Eden Magazine interview published Friday that she wasn't aware how loved her late husband was until he began his pancreatic cancer battle. The longtime "Jeopardy!" host died Nov. 8, 2020, at age 80.
"Alex was my dear husband and my most beloved friend," 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."
As Alex was rising in fame with his "Jeopardy!" gig, Trebek said it was still "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."
However, she said she began to understand what a cultural icon he was after he announced his cancer diagnosis to the public in March 2019.
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"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.
Looking back, Trebek said she is nonetheless grateful that she was unaware of her husband's celebrity status, calling it 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 said. "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."
Trebek concluded by sharing how she's coping with grief ahead of the first anniversary of her husband's death.
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"There are moments of my day that I miss Alex so much, and I just have to allow myself those times," she said. "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."
Jean and Alex tied the knot in 1990 and share two children together, Emily, 28 and Matthew, 31. She previously opened up about her husband's death in an exclusive NBC News interview in April.
"I think one of the beautiful things, the blessings that came, if you can call it a blessing, was that he got to really see the outpouring of love and admiration that he gave to the world," Trebek said at the time. "And I know that that was in and of itself a huge inspiration for Alex.”
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Contributing: Elise Brisco
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Trebek's widow reflects on husband's impact on 'Jeopardy!' fans
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