The Heartwarming Love Story Behind These Newly-Married ‘Jeopardy!’ Contestants
“I do” for $1,000, Alex.
Here’s the clue: In October 2013, these two teachers met and sparked an unforgettable romance after appearing on Jeopardy!
The answer: Who are Maryanne Lewell and Michael Townes?
Lewell is a high school history and social studies teacher from New Brunswick, Canada, and Townes is a middle school English teacher from Greenville County, South Carolina. They met at the 2013 Teachers Tournament on the long-running quiz show, where they went head-to-head to compete for the cash prize of $100,000. Although neither took home a winning stack of cash after the final round, they each walked away with something more precious (and priceless)—each other’s hearts.
According to Lewell and J!Buzz, the official news site of the game show, the two met backstage and talked briefly, just before joining host Alex Trebek in front of a live studio audience. After that first day of taping, the contestants then went out for drinks and got to know each other a little better.
"As we all started communicating, it became obvious to Michael and to myself that we had a tremendous amount in common," Lewell said.
Of the many things they had in common, besides working in education, of course, was a shared interest in science fiction films, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, as well as a love for traveling and reading comic books. According to Townes, being casted for the show was a great way to meet like-minded people, and to also stir up some North vs. South controversy.
"It’s [Jeopardy!] a truly excellent filter for finding people with whom you have a lot in common and don't have trouble carrying on a conversation," said Townes. "I admire her [Lewell] steadfastness in trying to convince the Southern guy used to 100-degree summers of the ‘merits’ of winter."
The pair kept in touch after appearing on the game show, chatting back and forth online, and soon after, they began a long-distance relationship. As you would imagine, when describing how they felt about one another, both Lewell and Townes relied on what else but...categories.
"If Maryanne were part of a ‘Jeopardy!’ category, it would have to be ‘Nerdy Redheads,'" Townes joked with reporters at the New York Times. "Much like myself, she was into a lot of nerdy sort of pursuits."
In turn, Lewell said that Townes belonged in a "Kind of Cute, Kind of Funny," category. "He was such an easygoing and kind person," she said. "I felt very comfortable around him."
Townes and Lewell officially became engaged in 2015, and culminated their union in Canada in a beautiful wedding ceremony on July 7, 2017. The blushing new bride plans to make her way down South, once her immigration paperwork is processed and her teaching credentials are transferred.
However, we should note there was one notable absence on the guest list. Unfortunately, Alex Trebek couldn’t attend, but he sent the perfect RSVP response that you would expect from the warm host, who has spent much of his career in dealing in facts and categories.
“My congratulations to the couple,” Trebek wrote in an email. “Although Maryanne and Michael are not the first couple to have met at ‘Jeopardy!’ and gone on to be married, they participated in one of our best Teachers Tournaments. Even though neither won the competition,” Trebek added, “they certainly are ‘Winners in Love.’”
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We’ll take, “Aww...that was sweet” for $200, Alex. You can find more details about the couple and their big day in the New York Times' Vows section.