It seemed to come from nowhere. Mark Filer, 31, was grilling hamburgers on the deck of his Laytonsville, Md., home in July 1993 when he told his startled wife, Jennifer, that upon his death he wanted his organs donated. “Okay, but we’ve got a new baby and a 3-year-old,” she recalls thinking. “That is a long time off.”
Sadly, it wasn’t. That Aug. 17 the Montgomery County police officer was critically injured when his cruiser was struck by a truck. Seven days later, Filer was removed from life support, and his widow honored his wish by donating his organs. A 41-year-old mother of two received the liver; a 12-year-old boy received a kidney; a 38-year-old dad got the the other kidney; and a 56-year-old State Department employee received Mark’s heart. “It is a reason for joy,” says Jennifer Hammond, as she is known today, of the lives saved.
Now she wants to spread the gospel by helping to lead Laytonsville, a Norman Rockwell-like town of 101 households 50 miles north of Washington, D.C., in its drive to become the first community in America where every adult is a registered organ donor. Already, 55 families have signed pledge cards.
In the six years after Filer’s death, Jennifer, now 33, lost a second husband, Chris Orsborne, in a 1997 motorcycle accident. (His injuries precluded organ donation.) Last June she married Ken Hammond, a computer specialist whom she had met at church. Though she is busy caring for their blended family of six—her three children are Colleen and Nicole Filer, ages 9 and 6, and Jacob Orsborne, 3—she remains devoted to promoting organ donation. “Mark was a true community police officer, willing to give his life for another,” she says. “My heart is happy knowing that Mark is still giving.”