'Jeopardy!' producer talks Alex Trebek's 'nice final day' before his death

"He was coherent. He wasn’t in pain, and the fact that he had a nice final day, I think makes all of us in the ‘Jeopardy!’ family feel much better," one of the show's executive producers told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Alex Trebek spent his final days exactly the way he wanted.

The longtime “Jeopardy!” host and TV icon died Sunday morning at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer, and one of the show’s executive producers, Mike Richards, told TODAY he enjoyed a quiet moment before his death.

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“He had a swing in his backyard that he loved. He actually rebuilt it earlier this year. He was very handy. I don’t know if a lot of people know that,” Richards told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb Monday.

“And even in his book, he described that he wanted his final day to be sitting on his swing next to his wife, Jean, and kind of watching the horizon. And he got to do that," Richards said.

"He was coherent. He wasn’t in pain, and the fact that he had a nice final day, I think makes all of us in the ‘Jeopardy!’ family feel much better.”

Richards also said Trebek maintained a quiet dignity on what turned out to be his last day taping the popular game show.

“I knew he was in an enormous amount of pain, and as he was leaving, I saw him at the door and I said, ‘You know, that was maybe the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,’” Richards said.

“He kind of had his head down and he looked up and said, ‘Well, thank you.’ And that, you knew, when he accepted that, that he was really fighting and it was just so important for him to do this show and to support everything that it means to America.”

Describing Trebek behind the scenes, Richards said, “He was even better than what you hoped for."

"He was incredibly hard-working," he said. "He cared about this show. He cared about the importance of this show and that it helped people want to be smarter. He made that cool.”

Several "Jeopardy!" contestants got the chance to tell Trebek about the impact he had on their lives. In an unaired moment from a recent show, new champion Burt Thakur explained how Trebek helped him learn English as a child.

"Alex Trebek is a significant reason why I am the way I am," Thakur told TODAY.

Famed "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer also mourned Trebek's passing, as have Trebek's game show contemporaries.

"Alex Trebek’s courage, grace and strength inspired millions and awed those of us who knew him," "Wheel of Fortune" star Pat Sajak, 74, wrote on Twitter.

"A tremendous loss for his family, friends, co-workers and countless viewers. I was honored to be a friend and a part of his professional family for all these years. A very sad day."

"I will cherish the many memories I have shared with Alex Trebek that date back well before either of our careers took off," Vanna White, Sajak's co-star, wrote on Instagram.

"I will always be in awe of the way he faced the battle he fought so valiantly, and I’m devastated to lose my longtime friend. My heart is with his family, friends, co-workers and fans. There will never be another Alex Trebek and he will truly be missed."

"Jeopardy!" episodes hosted by Trebek will air through Christmas Day, the show said. A replacement has not been named.