Local teacher who won on Jeopardy, Alex Trebek both leave legacies after fights with pancreatic cancer

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — For one Prairie Village teacher, competing on Jeopardy was a life-long dream. Larry Martin’s dream came true in 2018. However, months later he passed away from pancreatic cancer. 

It’s the same cancer that took Alex Trebek’s life Sunday. Both Martin and Trebek are leaving their own legacies. 

Maggie Urick, a kindergarten teacher at Belinder Elementary, says dreams were made and encouraged in Mr. Martin’s classrooms.

“He always took the time to listen, and I felt like his children felt that, too. They always felt like they were so important and what they had to say was always interesting to him,” Urick said.

One day, Martin’s dream of being on Jeopardy came true when he won the 2018 Teacher’s Tournament on the show and earned $100,000 on the program.

FOX4 visited Belinder in 2018 when his episode aired. Students and teachers celebrated with Martin. They watched the program in the gym on a large projector. Teachers stood and clapped for him, and kids cheered and hugged their teacher.

“I’ve been chasing this dream for really in earnest for 17 or 18 years, and it came true better than I could have ever hoped — so I hope that’s inspiring for them,” Martin said.

“He inspires me because he’s a really good teacher, and he’s really nice, and he’s really smart,” former student, Charlie Goss said.

Shortly after Mr. Martin won he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. LeAnn Carver-Jones teaches physical education at Belinder, and is a long-time friend of the Martin family.

“​My hope was that he could get the care and they’d caught it soon enough so he would have a prolonged life, but knew that he had a battle ahead of him,” Carver-Jones said.

He passed away in January of 2019, and was remembered by Trebek on Jeopardy, who was struggling with his own diagnosis. Teachers wore purple ribbons to remember Martin, and support Trebek.

“They are wearing them as a tribute to Larry Martin. Last year’s teacher tournament winner who shortly after the tournament passed away from pancreatic cancer,” Trebek said.

A drawing of Martin is in Belinder’s halls to remind students not only to go for your dreams, but how you pursue them also matters.

With Trebek’s passing on Sunday, the teachers say life brought the two together at the right time. A drawing of Martin is in Belinder’s halls to remind students to not only go for your dreams, but how you pursue them matters.

“There’s all the big things like shooting for your dreams, going for Jeopardy, being a pursuer of knowledge, but just how you carry yourself, how you speak to others, how you handle adversity — I think are legacies that are equally as important as the big jeopardy finale that he got to experience,” Urlick said.

“Love the people who are around you because sometimes they’re gone before you can say goodbye,” Carver-Jones said.

New episodes featuring Trebek will continue to air through Christmas. The last show he ever taped will air Christmas Day. The show says they are not announcing a new host for Jeopardy at this time.

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