She came from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to New York to audition for the great George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet. She received a scholarship and never left town.
One night, Elaine Cancilla went to the Winter Garden Theatre to see "West Side Story" and decided right then and there to become a show dancer.
She landed her first role on Broadway at age 19.
From there, it was on to "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" where she caught the eye of the legendary Bob Fosse.
More Broadway shows followed, including "South Pacific" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
Fosse tabbed her to serve as the standby for Chita Rivera in the original company of "Chicago" on Broadway, which changed her life.
It was there that she met Jerry Orbach. A year later, they were married.
A couple of years ago, a friend told me she was the real estate broker for Elaine's apartment on Manhattan's West Side. She said Elaine had decided to move after Jerry's death from prostate cancer.
I told her I had to meet Elaine, had to!
We met at a small restaurant five minutes from Lincoln Center. I couldn't believe I was sitting there with her. Within minutes, she accepted my offer to join our Legends for Life Advisory Board to honor her husband, whose smiling face was on an 8-by-10 glossy she brought with her.
That picture of Jerry Orbach became the focal point of a print ad that our Creative Director, Joe Nunziata wrote and Neil Farber of PSP Sports inserted in sports publications across the country.
It was seen by Doug Porter at a Portland State University game in November and that's how we came to be affiliated with the Rotary Clubs of America, members of which are committed to staffing our tables in minor league parks across the land.
In the midtown apartment of Board member Avis and Bruce Richards, Elaine Orbach last year graciously recorded a public service announcement for our minor league prostate cancer awareness and education initiative.
We've learned sadly that Elaine Orbach passed away from pneumonia. She was 69 years old.
Her memory will live on in that PSA that hundreds of thousands will see and hear this season.
Her gift to us--herself and Jerry--will keep on giving for as long as there is an Ed Randall's Bat for the Cure.