Stepien’s heart went to Arthur Thomas, a father of four who lives in the town of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and who had been within days of dying at age 62.
After having his transplant, Thomas wrote a thank-you to the family. Stepien’s widow, Bernice, kept in touch with him with holiday cards and flowers for birthdays.
And then Miss Stepien became engaged to Paul Maenner, a 34-year-old engineer, in October.
“One of my first thoughts was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’ ”she said. Then she thought, ‘It would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’ ”
At her fiancé’s suggestion, Miss Stepien wrote Mr. Thomas and asked him to walk her down the aisle. Mr Thomas said yes, after family members expressed their approval.
The wedding took place last Friday. Mr Thomas and the bride formally met one day earlier, and he suggested she grip his wrist, where his pulse is strongest.
“I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” he said. “I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart to Pittsburgh. If I had to, I would’ve walked.”
Miss Stepien was also overwhelmed by the emotions of the day. “I was just thinking, ‘My dad is here with us, and this man is here with us because of us.’”