Bride walked down the aisle by man who received her father’s heart

Posted By: Channel 8 Eyewitness News

Courtesy: ABC News

It was an emotional day for one bride during her Saturday wedding as she was escorted down the aisle by the man who received her father’s heart donation 10 years ago.

"The day was absolutely, incredibly perfect," Jeni Stepien Maenner of Arlington, Virginia, told ABC News. "Before we walked down the aisle, we had this moment where he said, ‘If it’s OK with you, when I’m ready to offer your hand to your husband, you can touch my chest and feel my heart.’ It was so awesome to have a piece of my father physically there."

Jeni was married to Paul Maenner on Aug. 6, a decade after her dad Michael Stepien was killed during a robbery by gunpoint on Sept. 29, 2006. His organs were donated and his heart was received by Arthur "Tom" Thomas of New Jersey.

"It was unbelievably shocking to our family," Jeni told ABC News last night. "It was very quick ordeal. My father had been shot through his temples. He was so charismatic and he was such an athlete. He played baseball religiously and tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ’70s. He was very caring. He really wanted the best for us girls, and my mom."

Two days after her dad’s death, Tom received the heart transplant he waited almost 10 years for, due to a preexisting heart condition, Jeni said.

Jeni and Tom have been exchanging letters and gifts since her dad died. Prior to her wedding, she sent him a letter, which read: "’Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you, and I’m going to get married on Aug. 6t. One further thing, if you’re willing — would you walk me down the aisle?’" Tom told WABC-TV.

Tom said that Jeni was the first person he ever walked down the aisle.

"I had a father-daughter dance with him and one special dance with my mom," Jeni said. "We just talked the whole time and smiled at each other. I was just so blessed that he was there with us."

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