Brian Bigger, the Mayor of Greater Sudbury, Ont., remembers meeting Alex Trebek in 2015 when the late “Jeopardy!” host returned to his hometown to film an episode of “Amazing Race Canada.”
Bigger was awed by Trebek’s presence. And at the same time, surprised by it.
“He was so soft-spoken and humble,” Bigger said. “For someone who made a living as a game show host, he didn’t take over the room. He let others speak. He made everyone feel comfortable.
“I think that’s what a lot of people who had the opportunity to meet him felt.”
Trebek, who was born in Sudbury to a Ukrainian immigrant father and a French-Canadian mother, died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Plans are in the works to honour Trebek in the city of 165,000, Bigger says, but a decision on how to do that has yet to be made.
Trebek had been the face of “Jeopardy!” for nearly four decades after taking the helm of the trivia show as a host/producer in 1984.
While Trebek hadn’t lived in Sudbury since he was a child, Bigger says the loss was felt deeply all over the northern Ontario city.
Sudburians, he said, routinely took pride in watching Trebek on “Jeopardy!”
“I’ve seen so many comments on social media from many people in the community saying: I’m proud to be able to say that I come from the same place that Alex Trebek came from,’” Bigger said. “Millions of people invited him into their homes every night for decades.
“So I think a lot of people in Sudbury made that connection with him and were supporters.”
Flags flew at half-mast at Tom Davies Square, Sudbury’s city hall building, on Sunday, and a virtual book of condolences, which will be shared with Trebek’s family, was set up on the city’s website.
A petition to rename Sudbury’s main library has also picked up steam in the days following Trebek’s death, with nearly 3,000 signatures secured as of Tuesday afternoon. The petition was started by hosts of a local radio show in 2019 after Trebek revealed his cancer diagnosis.
Bigger says he’ll bring that and other ideas, such as renaming a street in Trebek’s honour, to an upcoming City Council meeting.
While the mayor acknowledged that renaming a library after the trivia master would be “fitting, given his connection to learning,” he also says he’ll give the Trebek family “their time to grieve,” before decisions are made.
“With the city council, we have processes and bylaws, naming conventions and all of these things, and clearly we want to respect the thoughts and the wishes of Alex’s family,” Bigger said. “But I’m hearing from so many Sudburians and it really is something.
“So many people have reached out to talk about his legacy and the pride of him coming from Sudbury. So we will contact (the Trebek family) and let them know we wish to honour Alex as one of our sons.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2020.
Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press