Alex Trebek checked something off his bucket list before he died.
The beloved Jeopardy! host — who died on Sunday at age 80 — celebrated his last annual Christmas party with friends and Jeopardy! staffers in 2019 with a special performance from singer Don McLean.
Following the news of Trebek's death, McLean paid tribute and shared the special memory he has of Trebek from the emotional Christmas party last year. "Alex asked if I would come and sing for him and his Jeopardy family at his annual Christmas party last year. I was on his 'bucket list,' he told me. It was at a lovely Italian restaurant near his home," McLean said in a statement, obtained by PEOPLE.
"It was a joyous and sad occasion and I was very touched that my music was that important to him," McLean said. "There was not the slightest hint of self-pity or weakness in this man. He was elegant and dignified as you saw him on television. Old school for sure and someone who we all can learn from. I thought of him often afterward and I’ll think of him in the future and maybe try to be a little more like him."
For the 2019 party, Trebek reached out to McLean and asked the singer if he would perform, even telling him that it was on his "bucket list" to see McLean sing.
Days after the party, McLean spoke to PEOPLE and said that Trebek, who was a big fan of the "American Pie" singer, cried tears of joy during the performance."There were a lot of tears,” McLean said at the time. "The songs can do that But under the circumstances, there was also a propensity to want to let some emotion out. Everyone is trying to be joyful, but there is this undercurrent of worry."
That worry was for Trebek's health, as the longtime game show host was in the midst of a public battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer after his diagnosis in March 2019. Though he originally completed his chemotherapy treatments at the end of August 2019, the following month, Trebek announced that he had to undergo another round the treatment.
On Sunday, Jeopardy! announced the news of Trebek's death on Twitter. "Jeopardy is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex," the show wrote.
Throughout his time on the show, Trebek battled numerous health issues in addition to his cancer, including two heart attacks, a full knee replacement, surgery to remove blood clots on his brain and a torn Achilles tendon.
Trebek is survived by his wife Jean and their two children: son Matthew, 29, a restaurateur in Manhattan who owns Oso (a popular Mexican restaurant in North Harlem), and daughter Emily, 27, who works in real estate in Los Angeles. He also has an older daughter Nicky, 53, whom he adopted when he was married to his first wife Elaine Callei.
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