I'll take 'Longtime Dream' for $2,000: Reminderville woman tells about 'Jeopardy!' journey

April Helms
Akron Beacon Journal
Wendy Voelker holds her "Jeopardy!" hat at her home in Reminderville. Voelker made it to final Jeopardy round and finished in second place.

REMINDERVILLE — A Reminderville woman lived out a longtime dream when she was selected to be a contestant on the popular quiz show "Jeopardy!"

The episode, which aired March 16, was recorded in January, said Wendy Voelker, who is the development officer for the Hattie Larlham Foundation. Katie Couric was host that evening.

"I've been watching 'Jeopardy!' with my family since I was a kid," said Voelker, who came in second place. "It was a lifelong dream of mine to compete. In high school, I competed in our school's Quizbowl team."

The journey to appear on the show was eventful, Voelker said, having first taken the online test in 2018. A couple of months after she submitted the test, she was invited to audition at a site in Cleveland. After that, she was told she would hear something back within 18 months. However, after that period, Voelker said she still hadn't heard anything, so she reapplied. She was contacted soon after the second application and invited to compete.

"I was originally supposed to tape March 18, 2020," Voelker said. "That's when the world fell apart." At first, she added, she was told the taping would be postponed, then that production would be shutting down.

"Then Alex Trebec got sick," Voelker said, referring to the longtime "Jeopardy!" host. Trebek, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2019 and died at age 80 Nov. 8, 2020, according to information from the official "Jeopardy!" website. Trebek had been host for the quiz show since 1984.

Fianlly, before the holidays, Voelker said she got a call to travel to Los Angeles in January to compete.

"It's been almost three years from start to finish to get on the show," Voelker said. 

Making that trip "was very difficult" due to the pandemic, Voelker said. Her husband and family could not come with her. Los Angeles was a COVID-19 hotspot at the time and "was on lockdown." Also, she had to take a COVID-19 test before she left, and another test when she arrived. 

"At the time, California was under travel orders," she said. "Travel was limited to essential. But traveling to compete on 'Jeopardy!' was essential travel. Who knew?"

Voelker said she didn't leave her hotel room and had food delivered to the hotel.

"There really wasn't any place to go," she said.

The taping experience also was different due to the pandemic, Voelker said. There was no studio audience, and the contestants were responsible for their own makeup and hair.

"We were all provided a powder puff to keep on ourselves," she said. "We would be told 'OK, time to puff!' in between commercial breaks so you weren't shiny."

However, she said, she enjoyed meeting the other contestants and Couric.

"She was lovely, she was wonderful," Voelker said of Couric. "I thought she was a fantastic host."

The game itself "was one of the toughest I'd ever seen," Voelker said. 

"Even the Twitterverse was of the opinion that it was a brutal game," she said. "The clues were tough."

Voelker said that she was happy to have made it to the final round. 

"None of us knew it," she said of the final question.

The final clue, in the category "Triple-'A' Georgraphy" was this: Home to the Piazza Alberica, this Italian city is better known for what it supplied to works by Henry Moore and Michelangelo.

"I guessed 'Alba,' and lost $1,100 in my wager," she said. 

The correct answer was "Carrara," Voelker added.

Still, Voelker said she was happy with her experience.

"It wasn't the experience I had originally hoped for, but it was still pretty great," she said.

When she is not helping raise money for Hattie Larlham or learning trivia, Voelker said she likes to run.

"I am currently in training for a half marathon," she said. "I was going to be in the Cleveland one, but that was postponed."

Voelker said she also has a podcast, Life at Goal, which she described as a health and fithess motivational journey.

"I started it a couple years ago," she said. "I lost a lot of weight many years ago, and I like to talk."

The podcast can be found at lifeatgoal.com online. 

In addition, she and "a couple of friends" have been rewatching the television series "Lost" over Zoom. 

As for the $2,000 Voelker won in "Jeopardy!" she said she was thinking of traveling when she could.

"I'd love to put it toward a trip for me and my husband Bob, since he wasn't able to go to California with me when I competed," she said.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com.