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Former local 'Jeopardy!' contestants react to Alex Trebek's death

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Jim-Bob Williams poses with Alex Trebek in March 2019, while taping an episode of Jeopardy that would air on May 28, 2019. (Sony Pictures Television)

A beloved TV game show host passed away Sunday morning after battling stage four pancreatic cancer for more than a year.

During his 37-year run as host of "Jeopardy!", Alex Trebek taped more than 8,000 episodes, taping all the way up until his death, but former contestants said you would have never known he was suffering.

"Alex, of course, is wonderful," Cathy Deobler said. "He is so friendly and caring, and talks to the contestants, talks to the audience. He's really, really a nice man."

Deobler is a Los Angeles native, but recently moved to Belle for work in live theater. Deobler appeared on "Jeopardy!" in July 2019.

"It was a great experience. The people there were wonderful," she said.

Just weeks before, retired engineer from Kanawha County, Jim-Bob Williams appeared on the famous quiz show after years of auditioning.

"Oh, this was a long standing dream to be a part of the show," Williams said.

Williams is a member of an improv comedy group called "The Mighty Schmucks," something he said Trebek found interesting.

"He said, 'You're a member of an improv group called, 'The Mighty Schmucks'?' And I go, 'Yeah.' He hadn't had that before," Williams said. "Maybe he was just surprised that a 60-something year old guy would be in an improv group."

Unfortunately for Williams, he happened to appear on day 29 of James Holzhaur's 32-game record-breaking streak.

"It was a thrill because I was actually ahead of him for about 10 seconds," Williams said. "I got the first double jeopardy, but toward the second round of the show he got more in his usual rhythm. It was phenomenal just to watch him."

Williams said while the news of Trebek's death wasn't surprising, it was still emotional, and he said he will be missed.

"You know that bad news is going to come, but it still strikes you hard when it hits," Williams said.

Trebek was 80 years old.

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