Jeopardy! contestant who died of cancer wins $105K

AUSTIN — Alex Trebek began Wednesday’s episode of Jeopardy! by saying, “Before she came to us, Cindy’s ambition was to come to Jeopardy and win over $100,000. She’s done that.”

Cindy Stowell’s 7-day cash winnings are $105,803. The science content developer from Austin died from colon cancer on Dec. 5, before her episodes aired.

KXAN’s Amanda Brandeis spoke to Stowell’s boyfriend of more than 20 years — and trivia partner — Jason Hess earlier this month. “Whether it was geography or movies and music, she just kind of had one of these brains that sort of absorbed everything,” said Hess. “Even if it was just the two of us we could usually hold our own against much larger teams, in no small part thanks to her.”

Jason Hess and Cindy Stowell (Jason Hess Photo)
Jason Hess and Cindy Stowell (Jason Hess Photo)

Stowell set one goal before making it onto Jeopardy: donate her prize money to cancer-related organizations like the Cancer Research Institute. When she showed up to compete, only Trebek and a select group of staffers knew she was ill.

Jeopardy! sent her advanced copies of her first three episodes while she was in the hospital, so that Stowell and her family were able to watch her realize a lifelong dream of competing on the show. The show also expedited her prize money so that she received it before she passed away.

The final category in Stowell’s last episode Wednesday was “Little Countries,” along with this clue: “It’s the closest nation to the mainland U.S. where cars customarily drive on the left.” While all three contestants correctly guessed, “The Bahamas,” Stowell lost to a competitor by less than $3,000.

“When Cindy Stowell taped her appearance on Jeopardy!, she had Stage 4 cancer,” Trebek said. “Competing on Jeopardy! was a lifelong dream for Cindy, and we’re glad she was able to do so. Sadly, Cindy died on Dec. 5. Our condolences and best wishes to her family and friends.”

In her post-game interview, Stowell said, “It’s important to set goals for yourself, no matter how much time you have left. Being able to come on Jeopardy and be able to say, ‘Okay, I want to do good, I want to do something that will leave the world a better place.’”

Her advice to those wanting to get on the show? Don’t give up. “Even during the games, it’s possible to come from behind and that’s one of the exciting and beautiful things about game shows: it’s very unpredictable.”