A Bay Ridge family is remembering the compassion of longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, who died Sunday, Nov. 8 after battling pancreatic cancer.
Debbie Stevens and her son Michael, who has autism, contacted the beloved host after his cancer diagnosis was made public. Stevens’ husband died of pancreatic cancer 17 years ago.
“When the family heard the news about Alex having the same disease, and Michael being a big fan of ‘Jeopardy!,’ it was a reminder of what happened to his own father,” Stevens said.
Stevens, 62, a 32-year survivor of pulmonary fibrosis, contacted Trebek’s son, who owns a Manhattan restaurant. She told him that her son wanted to wish his father well.
“I told him how much I love Alex Trebek,” said Michael, 33.
Two days later, Michael sent Trebek a get-well card at the restaurant.
“I slipped a note in and wrote it would be a dream come true if your dad would be able to call him to make him feel better,” Stevens said. “I knew I was asking a lot.”
Two weeks later, Trebek called and left a voicemail.
“I wanted to thank you,” Trebek said. “I appreciate it. Maybe someday, if you manage to come to Los Angeles, you can come to a taping of the program. That will be great. Hopefully, I’ll still be around. Take care.”
Stevens was able to get Trebek back on the phone to talk to Michael. Their conversation lasted about seven minutes.
“I asked Alex how he’s feeling,” Michael said. “He said he was sharp.”
Stevens tried to use her own health battles to motivate Trebek.
“I told him they gave me 10 years to live,” she said. “I smashed the records and I’m still here with fibrosis. He said, ‘Well, you showed them.’”
Michael was deeply saddened when he heard that Trebek had died, but is happy that they made a connection.
“I’m very lucky and grateful to talk to Alex Trebek on the phone,” he said. “He was nice to me and my mom. We are listening to the voicemail and watching the shows.”