An autistic "Jeopardy!" superfan received the phone call of a lifetime when his personal hero, Alex Trebek, rang him up for a cheerful chat on the phone — twice, after the first call went to voicemail.
32-year-old Matthew Kneeter, who in addition to autism struggles with epileptic seizures, is an avid "Jeopardy" viewer who grew deeply depressed after learning of Trebek's pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Desperate to boost his spirits, his mother tracked down contact information for Trebek's own son to ask if his dad would be willing to make a brief phone call, she explained to NY Daily News.
The woman, Debbie Stevens, raised her children on her own after her husband died of cancer 15 years ago. She's also a survivor of pulmonary fibrosis, battling the disease for more than three decades despite receiving a life expectancy of just ten years.
Stevens wasn't sure if the idea would ever come to fruition, especially given Trebek's current health status: He's in the process of undergoing another round of chemotherapy.
But on Oct. 18, Stevens emerged from her home bathroom to discover a voicemail from a call she'd just missed: "This is a message for Michael," a familiar voice said.
The message continued, "My name is Alex Trebek. It is Friday, about 6 o’clock your time. My son Matthew, who has a restaurant in North Harlem, told me that you and your mom had been in contact and you’re fans of the show, and I just wanted to thank you for that, and I appreciate it. I hope you’re well. Maybe someday if you manage to get to Los Angeles, you can come to a taping of the program. That would be great. Hopefully, I’ll still be around hosting it."
Less than five minutes later, Stevens asked if Trebek would mind calling back, which he did. He spoke with the mother and son for about 10 minutes.
"He’s an amazing person,” Stevens said. "He knows how many people love watching the show. He doesn’t want to let people down. As sick as he is, he wanted to assure Michael that he is okay."
Trebek, who received his diagnosis in early 2019, is continuing to film the show even while in treatment.
“[I’ve lived] a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life ... if it happens, why should I be afraid that?” the 79-year-old said in October 2019. “One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral, as a part of a eulogy, is, ‘He was taken from us too soon.’”