Allen’s Legacy Lives On
“Allen was passionate about photography,” recalls Leah. “He had such an artistic eye.” In 2007, Allen was diagnosed as terminally ill from a recurrence of cancer. His loving wife of 25 years, Leah, helped her husband write down his final wishes during his last days of life. Something that was important to Allen was to be an eye, organ and tissue donor. Allen was saddened to learn that with his diagnosis of cancer, he was precluded from being an organ donor.
Upset with the news, Leah did further research and learned that cornea donation was still a possibility. “When we discovered Allen could donate both of his corneas, we cried tears of joy,” recalls Leah. After his death, Allen’s beautiful blue eyes helped two men in New Jersey see their loved ones again. Leah felt Allen’s decision of donation was also a gift to her. She was relieved Allen was no longer in pain and that something positive came out of their tragedy.
“Allen had photographs of everything,” says Leah. “He saw art everywhere. It seemed appropriate to me that his passion was the one thing that he was able to donate, his eyes and his view on the world. I was so thankful because I knew it was important to him.”
Allen was a character bigger than life itself. He was a very honest man. He was a civil rights advocate in the 1960s. He believed in and practiced tolerance. He became a grandpa, which is something that he wanted desperately for many years. His grandson, Benny, was born 16 months before Allen passed away.
Allen was very articulate and had an IQ of 135, which is the reason he was chosen to take military intelligence training when he enlisted in the army during the Vietnam era. His sharp sense of humor helped through the extreme stresses of his prolonged battle with cancer. Allen’s original thoracic surgery, when they removed a lung, was in 1999. He had a recurrence in 2007, which ultimately claimed his life and allowed him to fulfill his wish to pass on the gift of sight.
Leah continues to honor her late husband Allen by being an advocate of eye, tissue and organ donation. She is a very active member of Gift of Life Donor Program’s Hearts of Gold Program, which is a volunteer group of donor family members who offer support to donor families whose loved ones have made the selfless decision to donate in their time of grief.