|Beloved actor Jerry Orbach embodied the quintessential New Yorker, living his life with wisdom, wit and generosity. |
Now two lucky women will see the world through his eyes.
The Broadway and TV star donated his eyes when he died in December 2004, giving sight to two women who needed new corneas.
"I cannot remember a day that went by where he didn't say, 'I want to donate my eyes,' " Orbach's widow, Elaine, recalled yesterday.
A prostate-cancer patient at the time of his death at age 69, the Bronx-born Orbach did not donate any other organs, she said. "He never wore glasses. He could read in the dark, practically - just this wonderful vision he was so proud of."
For 12 seasons, he played menschy wise-guy detective Lennie Briscoe on TV's "Law & Order," making him the ideal face of a new donor-recruitment campaign by the Manhattan-based Eye Bank for Sight Restoration, said the organization's spokeswoman, Noel Mick.
"He widely appealed to people," Mick said. "Hopefully, it will increase donations in the New York area. We're in need," she said, noting the bank needs 1,100-1,200 annual donors.
Elaine Orbach said one of the actor's corneas went to a woman who needed a nearsighted eye, and the other went to a woman who needed a farsighted one.
"I wonder if they have an overwhelming desire to watch 'Law & Order' or maybe sing '42nd Street' all of a sudden," she mused.
Radio and TV announcements voiced by Orbach's son Chris began airing two weeks ago, and print versions are running in the Daily News. Subway ads debut this month, Mick said.
Though he was dubbed a "living landmark" for his longevity as Briscoe and for his Broadway musical roles, "For two New Yorkers, his greatest role was that of an eye donor," Chris Orbach says in the voiceovers.
"He believed in the body continuing, if it's possible," Elaine Orbach said. "What greater gift than if you must pass this world: that if something is still working, to give [it] to somebody who doesn't have a chance? I just believe he's very happy about that. This was his wish."