Local ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant shares fond memories of late Alex Trebek

A Lincolnite and former contestant on Jeopardy! is sharing his memories of Alex Trebek days after his passing from stage four pancreatic cancer.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Four days after the passing of legendary ‘Jeopardy!’ gameshow host Alex Trebek, a Lincolnite and former contestant is sharing his fond memories of the iconic Canadian, who died Sunday after more than a year long battle with stage four pancreatic cancer.

“The person that you see on TV, that’s how he really is. He really is this personable, smart, funny, engaging person,” says Graham House, a professional musician who has lived in Lincoln since the 1990s, and appeared on ‘Jeopardy!’ in 2004.

House, who grew up in Kansas, says his love and passion for music was likely sparked by his grandmother. House jokes that he knew the ‘middle C’ on the piano before he could talk. Now, House is a teacher and coach for students at the School of Music at UNL. Occasionally, House will play the horn in the Sioux City, Omaha or Lincoln Symphonies.

He admits that music is a lot of practice, work and dedication, but something he loves.

Along with his passion for music, House says he has always had an affinity for trivia.

“I’ve always been kind of a trivia buff and it was always something that kind of seemed to come natural to me. People always go ‘ how do you remember all that stuff?’ and I go ‘ how do you not remember that?’”

His knowledge led him to perhaps the biggest stage in trivia history – the hit game show, ‘Jeopardy!’

House appeared in one episode, on October 14, 2004, losing to none other than record-holding Ken Jennings. He recalls the moments heading to the studio where he learned he was competing against the unbeatable Jennings.

“They said ‘we know what the first question you’d all like to know is..is Ken Jennings still on the show? and the answer is yes he is’ and so everybody in the bus sort of went oh no! Because we knew, you know, this guy is one of the great players,” House says.

“I remember looking at the numbers and I realized my strategy should shift from trying to beat ken at all costs to getting second place. and I did.” House walked away with $399 dollars that day, as well as with an unforgettable experience and impression of the great Alex Trebek.

“Even though he only has a few seconds with you, when he has those few seconds with you, he really connects with you. He looks you right in the eye, he finds a thing about you, he’s read about you, and he finds a thing he can connect with you about and with me it was music.”

Trebek’s death will forever impact the show, fans and the thousands of contestants who competed since Trebek began hosting in the 80s. And while he’s had a tremendous impact on the TV industry and American culture, House hopes the appreciation Trebek had for knowledge and education will carry on. 

“This was a show that celebrates people who enjoy a sport of the mind and who enjoy knowing things and facts, having knowledge about the greater world and Alex is part of that,” House says. “That show and Alex in particular made it cool to be smart.”

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