Washington State Trooper's legacy carries on through organ donation

It's been nearly six years since Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Gorst, near Bremerton.

Those who honor him remember his smile, his “larger-than-life” personality and his desire to help others.

Even after his death, Trooper Tony is still giving back to the community thanks to his status as an organ donor.

“He’s my hero,” said donor recipient Deborah Strych, who received one of Radulescu’s corneas in a transplant. “I’m thankful everyday for his gift to be able to see.”

Strych was living on her own when she gradually started going blind.

She struggled at her job as a nurse practitioner and started having trouble doing everyday things, like driving at night, reading on a computer and taking care of her patients.

Ultimately, she no longer could do her job.

“And that was when I was told I needed a cornea transplant,” Strych said.

After Radulescu died, Strych got a phone call from Seattle-based SightLife, a nonprofit dedicated to ending blindness and connecting cornea transplant patients to the right resources.

Five days after his death, Strych received one of Radulescu's corneas.

“He gave the ultimate gift,” said Strych. “How do you ever thank someone or their family for giving you a cornea so you can see, when you can’t see?”

>> Here's how you can register to be a donor

Radulescu’s other cornea went to a man in South Korea. Radulescu was also a tissue donor who helped as many as 100 people.

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Gina Miller, Radulescu's girlfriend and KIRO 7 anchor Michelle Millman with a photo of Trooper Tony Radulescu.

Gina Miller, Radulescu’s girlfriend, told KIRO 7 that two of his heart valves went to pediatric patients in Utah.

Nearly a year after Trooper Radulescu’s death, Strych got the chance to meet Miller.

There were nerves and tears, but mostly joy in the opportunity to get to know each other.

“He would love her, he would absolutely love her,” Miller told KIRO 7. “She will carry him with her. He will always be a part of her, and able to help her.”

Miller is still trying to make sense of Radulescu’s death, which happened in February 2012. He had stopped a vehicle on Highway 16 near Gorst when he was shot and killed by the driver and left to die on the side of the road.

The driver who shot Radulescu later took his own life.

Radulescu's death was mourned by hundreds in a public memorial service, but for Miller, the pain continues to this day.

“He was my rock, my love, my life,” Miller said. “[His death] destroyed a lot of people. Tony patrolled there for over 16 years.”

At her home in California, Strych keeps memories of Trooper Tony, knowing that the man who was so giving to others helped her regain her sight.

She is now back at work helping others, just like Trooper Tony.

>> Follow this link to learn more about SightLife

Listen to Michelle's interview about this story on KIRO Radio's Seattle Morning News with Dave Ross: