During the final week of Jeopardy! with the late host Alex Trebek, a local contestant talked to NBC 7 about the first time she got to meet him.
In the opening moments of last night's show, Trebek urged viewers to help victims of the pandemic.
"We're trying to build a gentler, kinder society, and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we're going to get there," Trebek urged viewers.
The episode was taped in late October. The following month Trebek died of pancreatic cancer.
Mira Mesa resident Carmela Chan appeared on Jeopardy! shortly before the host's death. The lifelong fan won more than $55,000 over a string of nights, but she said the real prize was getting to meet Trebek.
"He was so incredibly warm, so welcoming, so kind and also just so, so funny," Chan said. "Jeopardy will never be the same."
Chan, who grew up in Rancho Peñasquitos, Poway and Carmel Valley, was -- no surprise -- a dedicated viewer of the show airing on NBC 7.
"Alex Trebek was like a member of my family," Chan told NBC 7. "One of the earliest television shows I ever remember watching was Jeopardy! No matter what else was happening in the world, he was the one constant (albeit with different facial hair depending on the year) that would show up every evening at 7:30. In every show, it was abundantly clear just how much he cared for knowledge and trivia, and as a viewer, one could instantly tell how much fun he was having on the show."
Chan said that feeling was "magnified a thousandfold" in person.
"In the four shows I got to tape with him, I never once got an inkling of the discomfort or pain that he must have been going through," Chan said. "He always wanted to make each episode the best, most fun show, and was incredibly kind and generous throughout, not just to the contestants, but to his staff, who all clearly loved working for him. He took the time to give us all words of encouragement, or even sometimes a mock 'stern' pep talk if we hadn’t bet enough.
Chan's farewell words to her game-show hero?
"As a contestant and a viewer, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we have had so much fun watching him over the decades, and I can’t thank him enough for all the joy that he’s brought to our lives," Chan said.
Trebek's final episode on Friday will end with a special tribute. Jeopardy! airs every night on NBC 7 at 7:30 p.m.