"Jeopardy!" paid tribute to Alex Trebek and his decadeslong run as host on the famed trivia show Monday as his final episodes began to air the day after his death.
"Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards opened the show acknowledging the "enormous loss" of Trebek, who died Sunday at age 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Trebek had hosted the game show since 1984 and was contracted to continue until 2022.
Richards stood in front of the show's set and addressed viewers with a touching tribute before the taped episode aired at its usual time slot.
"He loved this show and everything it stood for. In fact, he filmed his final episodes less than two weeks ago," Richards said. "He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family."
The show will air Trebek's final 35 episodes through Christmas Day because "that's what he wanted," Richards added.
"On behalf of everyone here at 'Jeopardy!' thank you for everything, Alex," Richards said.
Trebek was a beloved figure in pop culture known for his calm, gentle and witty demeanor in telling contestants they had answered incorrectly. He won six daytime Emmy Awards and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2011.
It was a shock to "Jeopardy!" fans last year when Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He periodically provided health updates in taped videos posted to the show's social media accounts, offering hope on his condition.
But Trebek offered a more candid, grim reality on the state of his disease during a New York Times interview in July. He told the newspaper that if his course of treatment at the time didn't work, he planned to stop treatment altogether.
"Yesterday morning my wife came to me and said, 'How are you feeling?' And I said, 'I feel like I want to die.' It was that bad," he told The Times. "There comes a time where you have to make a decision as to whether you want to continue with such a low quality of life, or whether you want to just ease yourself into the next level. It doesn't bother me in the least."
Trebek was eulogized Sunday by dozens after news of his death broke, from celebrities to world leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Trebek, who was born in Ontario, "an icon."
"Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia," Trudeau said Sunday on Twitter. "My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who are mourning this tremendous loss."