Jerry Orbach Didn’t Want to Date until He Met His Elaine — For 25 Years He Wrote Her a Love Letter Every Day

Jerry Orbach’s perception of romance changed following his divorce from his first wife, but a few years after meeting Elaine, a former co-star, they wedded and lived together for twenty-five years. Throughout these years, he consciously kept the sparks burning — writing letters and making coffee for his beloved wife every morning.

Jerry Orbach, famous for his singing and acting prowess on Broadway musicals, films, and TV shows, recorded remarkable successes throughout his career.

Off-screen, the beloved “Law & Order” detective charmed fans with his love story. Initially, his first marriage to Marta Curro, whom he married in 1958, crashed after almost two decades.

The couple had two sons, Anthony and Christopher, and following their split, they shared custody. Orbach’s time with his sons was scheduled for weekends, and despite being a busy bee, he made time for them while neglecting his love life.

Jerry Orbach in New York City in 2004. | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach in New York City in 2004. | Source: Getty Images

All this changed after meeting Elaine. They met in 1975 while working in the theater production titled “Chicago.” Even though he was not interested in dating, they remained in touch, and in 1979, they exchanged wedding vows.

Jerry Orbach Begins a Gesture That Lasted Twenty-Five Years
The “Law & Order” star was intentional in his second marriage. Despite not being around often due to work, he proved his heart was committed to Elaine through words and actions.

Elaine Orbach and Jerry Orbach in New York City in 2004. | Source: Getty Images

Elaine Orbach and Jerry Orbach in New York City in 2004. | Source: Getty Images

After noticing that his wife could not keep up with his late hours—he always returned home at 2 am while she was asleep, Orbach carefully thought of how to make up for the lost time.

After her husband’s death, Elaine shared her special poems in her memoir, “Remember How I Love You: Love Letters from an Extraordinary Marriage.” This publication featured some essays from close friends recounting their time with Jerry.
The actor began waking up early to make his wife coffee and write love letters in verses. He wanted the notes to be the first thing she saw daily, and this gesture became a permanent habit.

Jerry Orbach in New York City in 1989. | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach in New York City in 1989. | Source: Getty Images

In one of his love notes, Orbach talked about his tight schedule; however, he emphasized that Elaine was a constant thought in his head. He wrote:

“Because of this crazy schedule I don’t often have time to think, but when I do, I think of you. I know that saying “I Love You” is an everyday thing, almost a habit… and I miss you even more. I can’t wait to see your face and kiss it!”

Jerry Orbach and his wife Elaine Cancilla in New York in 1990 | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach and his wife Elaine Cancilla in New York in 1990 | Source: Getty Images

At the end of the letter, the singer added, “I hope by the time you get this your back is all better, and I’ll talk to you tonight. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, and wherever you go today shopping, massage, voice lesson, etc., know that you’re on my mind and in my heart.”

Despite the frequency of his absence, Elaine loved his writings, and through the years, she kept the love letters, which were all written behind a page-a-day cat calendar.

Jerry Orbach and wife Elaine on January 16, 2001 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach and wife Elaine on January 16, 2001 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Orbach was an exceptional writer when it boiled down to expressing himself on paper. Whenever he missed a special day, like Valentine’s Day, he knew how to soften his lover with the sweetest words. One of his Valentine’s Day poems read:

“Valentine’s Day is here again. The weather looks cold and clammy…But I can happily go to work and try not to act too hammy. Cause I’ve got a warmness in my heart from my sunshine, my lifeline, my lambie! (I wish I could stay home and vie you a kiss!)”

Elaine Always Appreciated Her Husband’s Words
Orbach continued to sweep his wife off her feet with his sweet gesture. No matter how busy he was, the “Law & Order” actor wrote letters. This continued for twenty-five years of their marriage, stopping only after his death in 2004. The actor took his last breath at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.

Elaine Cancilla and Jerry Orbach in New York City, on February 11, 1997 | Source: Getty Images

Elaine Cancilla and Jerry Orbach in New York City, on February 11, 1997 | Source: Getty Images

According to his manager, Robert Malcolm, one of New York’s finest Broadway talents died from prostate cancer, leaving behind two sons and a wife.

After her husband’s death, Elaine shared her special poems in her memoir, “Remember How I Love You: Love Letters from an Extraordinary Marriage.” This publication featured some essays from close friends recounting their time with Orbach.

Jerry Orbach and Elaine Cancilla during the 5th Annual DGA Honors in September 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach and Elaine Cancilla during the 5th Annual DGA Honors in September 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Unfortunately, Elaine did not witness the world’s reaction to her husband’s heart-melting letters, as she died a few months before the book was published.

Despite her demise, the theater star inspired many with her appreciation for true love. Moreover, through her publication, she relived the memories shared with her beloved husband. Elaine acknowledged:

“Oh, those little slips of paper started my days with such love and smiles!”

Jerry Orbach in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Orbach’s impact reverberated far from his home. Aside from being a loving husband, he was a skilled actor, described as the best of his kind, following his death.

He knew how to handle the stage during Broadway musicals and embodied any role in shows or TV features. The actor is mainly remembered for his role in “The Threepenny Opera,” “The Fantasticks,” “Chicago,” “42nd Street,” “Carnival!” and “Promises, Promises.”

Jerry Orbach, Elaine Orbach, and Sam Waterston in Los Angeles, California in1999. | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach, Elaine Orbach, and Sam Waterston in Los Angeles, California in1999. | Source: Getty Images

According to movie critic Clive Barnes, Orbach’s role in “Promises, Promises,” which earned him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, displayed a morally bewildered hero. Barnes’ report in The New York Times read:

“He makes gangle into a verb, because that is just what he does. He gangles. He also sings most effectively, dances most occasionally, and acts with an engaging and perfectly controlled sense of desperation.”

This iconic performer was born in the Bronx on October 20, 1935. He was the only child of Leon, who worked as a restaurant manager, and Emily Olexy. In seventh grade, he moved with his family to Waukegan, Ill., where he also attended high school.

Jerry Orbach and Elaine Orbach at the 44th Annual Emmy Awards in Pasadena, California. | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach and Elaine Orbach at the 44th Annual Emmy Awards in Pasadena, California. | Source: Getty Images

After graduating from Waukegan High School, Orbach attended the University of Illinois but spent only one year there before moving to Northwestern to study drama. Despite changing schools, the Bronx-born did not graduate with a degree. He stayed at Northwestern for two years before leaving.

A few years after handling menial jobs for a stock company, he moved to New York, where he earned a role in the Broadway musical “The Threepenny Opera.” In 1960, he starred in his career-defining Broadway musical “The Fantasticks.”

Jerry Orbach on May 11, 1988 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Jerry Orbach on May 11, 1988 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

As the years rolled by, Orbach recorded other theater successes. However, with his portrayal of Detective Lennie Briscoe in “Law & Order,” he achieved international fame. He took the role seriously, appearing in twelve seasons before his demise.

Despite his passion for acting, Orbach’s heart was in his marriage. While working, the actor paid for his absence through loving words and gestures throughout his marriage. The love letters still had an effect after his demise, reminding his widow of the memories they created.

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