Bride asks man with father’s heart to walk her down aisle on wedding day

PITTSBURGH, PA (WCMH) — A woman’s wedding day is one of the most special moments of her life. For Jeni Stepien, it was even more special when she got to hear her father’s heartbeat for the first time in 10 years.

In 2006, her father. Michael, was murdered. His organs were donated, and his heart went to a man who had been waiting 16 years for a transplant.

“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,” Auther Thomas told KDKA-TV.

Thomas stayed in contact with Jeni for several years. When he learned she was about to get married, he knew it was time for them to finally meet.

“Jeni wrote me a letter and she said ‘Dear Tom, I’m the daughter of the man who’s heart is inside of you and I’m gonna get married on August 6th,’” Thomas told KDKA-TV. “‘And one further thing if you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?’”

Thomas said he got permission from his own daughter first, who isn’t yet married, and then made the drive to Pittsburgh from New Jersey.

“It’s just like having my dad here and better because we get to share this story with people and other people see that organ donors do matter,” Jeni said. “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.”

“Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again which on this day was perfect. It was what I needed,” said Michelle Stepien, the sister of the bride.

Thomas says it was an honor to be there.

“What a 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. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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