There can’t be many Jeopardy! champions easier to root for than Cindy Stowell.
Stowell has won four times in a row on taped episodes of the quiz show that began broadcasting Tuesday.
Stowell has developed a fan base like few other contestants. But she is unable to enjoy her performance on TV, or the outpouring of love from Jeopardy! watchers.
That’s because she died Dec. 5, just more than a week before her episodes began showing. She was 41.
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When the science content developer from Austin, Texas, began recording her episodes on Aug. 31, she had Stage 4 colon cancer, a fact known by a few of the show’s staff members and the host, Alex Trebek. Her competitors were unaware.
The show has not announced how long Stowell’s streak of victories will continue. A Jeopardy! champion continues playing until unseated by a contestant. On Friday, she won again, bringing her total prize money to $62,001.
Her boyfriend, Jason Hess, said in a statement, “Cindy came on Jeopardy! to play the game she loved, and in doing so, she was able to make a contribution to cancer research in the hopes that no one else would have to go through what she did.”
The money will go to the Cancer Research Institute, according to KXAN, a TV station in Austin.
“She knew she wasn’t going to be around, and so she felt like the best thing she could do was try to help do what she could to help get us to a cure faster,” Hess told the station.
After passing an online contestant test early this year, Stowell was invited to an audition in Oklahoma City. At that point, she reached out to a producer. “Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in-person interview and the taping date? I ask because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live,” she wrote, according to the show’s website.
“The doctor’s best guess is about six months,” she continued. “If there is the chance that I’d be able to still tape episodes of Jeopardy! if I were selected, I’d like to do that and donate any winnings to ... charities involved in cancer research. If it is unlikely that the turnaround time would be that quick, then I’d like to give up my tryout spot to someone else.”
A producer told her to do the audition, and if she qualified, she would be booked three weeks later, the fastest turnaround possible. She competed on painkillers while fighting a blood infection, Hess said.
“Competing on Jeopardy! was a lifelong dream for Cindy, and we’re glad she was able to do so,” Trebek said in a statement.