A Gig Harbor history teacher who appeared on a Monday airing of the game show “Jeopardy!” was unknowingly competing against a woman who had months to live.
Cindy Stowell, who has so far won the tape-delayed show five days in a row, died earlier this month before her string of shows began airing.
Stowell competed against Jonathan Bill, a high school teacher from Gig Harbor, on Monday’s show along with a third contestant. The show was taped in August.
“There is nobody I would rather have lost to,” Bill said on Tuesday.
Stowell died Dec. 5 from colon cancer.
On its website, Jeopardy said only a select group of staffers and host Alex Trebek knew she was ill at the time of the taping.
“Her opponents were unaware of her condition,” the show said.
Bill only learned of Stowell’s illness after she died.
“I was completely shocked,” Bill, a history teacher at Peninsula High School near Gig Harbor, said.
Bill noticed that show staff members seemed to be paying extra attention to Stowell on the taping day. He figured it was just because she was a returning champion in the middle of a winning streak.
“She was a great player,” Bill said. “She’s a very sharp gal. She’s a scientist.”
Stowell knew her time was limited when she auditioned for the show.
“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,” Stowell wrote to Jeopardy’s contestant producer Maggie Speak in early summer.
Her doctors gave her six months, she said at the time.
Stowell of Austin, Texas, was a 41-year-old science content developer. She had many interests from music to geography that she drew on to answer Jeopardy’s wide-ranging questions that come in the form of answers.
Bill, like Stowell, has been a longtime fan of “Jeopardy!”
“I’ve been watching that show for 30 years and actively trying to get on it for 20 years,” Bill said.
On Monday’s show Bill correctly answered questions ranging from the XYZ Affair to Model T’s.
But he didn’t do so well on pop culture, missing questions about late-night TV and Jerry Seinfeld.
“I knew my weakest areas were pop culture and literature and, of course, they popped up,” he said.
Bill, and the rest of the contestants, weren’t familiar with the LIGO Observatory in Hanford, Washington, and its detection of gravitational waves caused by black holes. He said he is now.
Singer Tony Bennett, who celebrates his 90th birthday in a TV special Tuesday night, presented several recorded questions about himself.
Stowell sealed her win on Monday’s show in Final Jeopardy when only she correctly knew the name of a Tom Wolfe novel. She claimed $18,001 in prize money Monday and has won $80,002 during her run.
Before she began competing on the show Stowell decided to donate her winnings to cancer related charities.
Jeopardy does not reveal the outcomes of its shows before they air. Stowell’s posthumous run will continue on Tuesday’s show.