Bride Given Away By Man Who Received Her Late Father’s Heart

August 8, 2016 Updated: August 8, 2016

A Pittsburgh bride was walked down the aisle on her wedding day in an unorthodox way.

Jeni Stepien was accompanied not by her father, who died 10 years ago, but by Arthur Thomas, the man who now has his heart.

“I was just so thankful that my dad could be here with us today in spirit and a piece of his physical being as well. That was really special for us,” Stepien told CBS Pittsburgh.

Michael Stepien was murdered in Swissvale in 2006 during a robbery. His organs were donated through an organization called the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) and Thomas, who’d been waiting for a transplant for 16 years received Michael’s heart.

“I was on death’s door when he was murdered and I needed a heart or I was going to be dying in the next few days,” Thomas said.

Through CORE, the Stepiens maintained contact with Thomas over the last decade through letters, emails, and phone calls. When she became engaged to Paul Maenner in October last year, the 33-year-old decided to pen a letter to Thomas asking if he’d walk her down the aisle.

“Jeni wrote me a letter and she said ‘Dear Tom, I’m the daughter of the man [whose] heart is inside of you and I’m gonna get married on Aug. 6,'” Thomas said. “‘And one further thing if you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?'”

Thomas traveled from New Jersey to St. Anselm church in Swissvale to be there for the big day on Aug. 6.

The pair met for the first time on the eve of her wedding day when Jeni felt her father’s heartbeat for the first time in a decade.

While Jeni was thankful that Thomas accepted her invitation, the 72-year-old was more than gracious.

“What greater honor could a person have than walking the daughter of the man who’s given his heart to him. I can’t imagine a greater honor,” Thomas said.