Cindy Stowell won more than $100,000 when she appeared as a six-time champion on "Jeopardy!" beginning on December 13. But sadly, Stowell died of cancer before her episodes made it on the air. Now, the long-running game show and host Alex Trebek have paid tribute to the contestant with a heartfelt video message, as well as an emotional interview with Stowell herself, conducted while she was taping her episodes.
At the end of the December 21 episode, which marked Stowell's last appearance on the program following a six-game winning streak, a special message from Trebek was appended to the broadcast, in which the host explained to audiences what happened to Stowell. A clearly emotional Trebek told viewers:
"For the past six 'Jeopardy!' programs, you folks have been getting to know the talented champion, Cindy Stowell. Appearing on our show was the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition for that lady. What you did not know is that when we taped these programs with her a few weeks ago, she was suffering from Stage 4 cancer. And sadly, on December 5, Cindy Stowell passed away. So from all of us here at 'Jeopardy!' our sincere condolences to her family and her friends."
"Jeopardy!" also posted a tribute to Stowell on its website, noting the champion's desire to donate her winnings to cancer charities. Producers were able to send Stowell advance copies of her first three episodes, which she watched from the hospital, and expedited her total winnings of $103,803. Her longtime boyfriend, Jason Hess, confirmed that the money was donated to the Cancer Research Institute.
A video interview with Stowell, taped during her run on the show, allowed the contestant to explain her lifelong dream of appearing on "Jeopardy!," and also reveal her terminal diagnosis.
"Experiencing this, and seeing what it's really like in person, has been phenomenal, and it's been fun," Stowell said of her "Jeopardy!" run, noting that even with the game's nerve-wracking stakes, it's still possible to succeed.
"Even when you think the odds are completely against you, somehow, via luck or something, things can work out," she said.
Stowell was 41.