Theresa Manco and Donald Fay III
Oct. 8, 2016 in Malvern, Pa.
Theresa and Don met soon after moving onto the same floor in the Penn State Berks dorms in fall 2005. The girl from West Chester and the guy from Boyertown became instant friends. By spring 2006, they were a couple.
What made Don fall for Theresa? "Everything about her. She's organized, focused, works hard, and she's good-looking, too," said Don, 30, a multidisciplinary engineer with Paradigm Consulting Engineers.
"Donald actually reminds me of the men that are in my family," said Theresa, 29, a Delaware County Intermediate Unit teacher of the deaf and hearing-impaired. "He works really hard, he thinks things through. He is respectful to everyone from different walks of life."
They did typical college things, attending sports events and other campus activities or just hanging out, until sophomore year, when Theresa's dentist and close family friend, Ken Fetter, found a lump in her jaw. He sent her to an oral surgeon, who determined she had a fibrous, noncancerous lump destroying her jawbone.
"There was a lack of options," Don said. "It was, this is the problem; here's the solution: It has to come out." And it did, only to return twice.
The first recurrence required her to have her jaw wired shut. That was especially hard at the holidays. "I really, really wanted to have pasta over Christmas, being from an Italian family," Theresa said. Her mom made pastina, and Don ran it through the blender. "He always did things like that," Theresa said.
Both transferred to Penn State's main campus. Junior year, it was her turn to look out for him.
"I played sports my whole life and was very fit," Don said. "One day, I was walking from my dorm room to class -- just a block or two -- and up a couple of flights of stairs, and I was winded." Theresa persuaded him to go to the campus health center, which led to a very quick transfer to the hospital. His right lung was 70 percent collapsed. With surgery, time, and help from his girlfriend, he healed.
Don graduated with a telecommunications degree and Theresa with one in elementary education. He worked at a company that makes medicine bottles. Theresa accepted a free ride to Vanderbilt University's master's program for teachers of the deaf and hearing-impaired. The couple saw each other on holiday breaks -- Theresa did not have summers off -- and otherwise called and texted.
Theresa, who has been hearing-impaired since birth, enrolled in a research study on effective tests for hearing aids. During the affiliated physical examination, the third growth on her jaw was discovered. That time, in spring 2011, she had to have some back teeth removed. Her jaw has been clear since.
She graduated in 2012, moved back home with her parents, Marty and Sharon, and was hired by the Intermediate Unit to teach at Swarthmore-Rutledge School.
In 2013, Don enrolled in a multidisciplinary engineering program at Penn State Brandywine and Great Valley. Theresa's parents live close to both. "I moved into the library at her parents' house, on a pull-out couch," he said.
After interning and working at Southco, Don took his current job in fall 2016.
How does forever sound?
For Theresa and Don, amazing athletics is one of the best parts of Penn State Nation. Theresa was thrilled in October 2014, when Don told her his mom, Rose, had bought them men's ice hockey tickets. "It was a beautiful day, a beautiful ride there, and then we saw the game," Theresa said.
"Yeah, we kicked their butts!" Don interjected.
After the victory, Don revealed the tickets from his mom came with one condition. "We have to go to the Lion Shrine and get our picture taken," he said.
A few of Don's friends met them there, and he asked one of them to take their photo. Theresa noticed a professional photographer as well, but, hey, the lion is popular. She had no clue the pro had been sent by Don's mom to capture a very special image, indeed.
Don's friend took the photo. Theresa started to walk away. "Hold on a second!'" Don said.
He knelt next to the lion. "I can't remember anything he said besides, "Will you marry me?" Theresa said.
He offered her something Theresa had admired since she was a young girl -- her maternal grandmother's 25th-anniversary diamond ring.
Theresa could not express what she felt.
"She covered her face with her hands, and began to cry, but no words were coming out," Don said. "She seemed happy, though, so I figured it was a yes."
It was so them
The couple wed at St. Patrick's Church in Malvern.
The spring before the wedding, the couple bought a house just outside West Chester borough, which they worked on up until moving in after the wedding. The previous owner had trimmed a large branch of the maple tree that grows in their yard and left a slice of it behind. Don's dad, Don II, sanded it into a wooden salver for the ring bearer, with ties to hold the rings.
Theresa's cousin Larry read a remembrance of the couple's late grandparents, calling them not by their given names, but by the names the couple called them: Angel Grandma and Pap Pap, Grandmom and Grandpop, Mom Mom and Pop Pop, Mimi and Pop.
The full Mass also featured a special song, "The Prayer," by Andrea Bocceli and Celine Dion.
The reception for 210 was held at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge. The couple and their attendants entered to the Penn State fight song. Guests received a traditional Italian favor the bride and her mom assembled with Jordan almonds. The couple found a bride and groom designed to sit on the edge of the cake and hot-glued them atop a miniature Nittany Lion shrine.
On her walk down the aisle, Theresa not only saw Don waiting for her, but Sabine, her best friend from Denmark, and Maria, an Italian-by-marriage relative of her grandmother's sister who has been one of Theresa's favorite people since childhood. That's when it hit her: They were really getting married, and she felt really loved.
Don had a similar feeling listening to the reception speeches with his new bride and picking out the faces of the travelers in the crowd. The logistics of so many people journeying to be in one place, just for them, was amazing, he said.
The budget crunch
A bargain: "Theresa's hobby is shopping while spending little money," Don said admiringly. Her dress is the bargain she finds most satisfying. She found it in one shop, but found the staff rude. She took her dad to see it at a second shop, where a trunk show saved her 20 percent.
The splurge: The five groomsmen received black-and-silver swords engraved with a knightly version of their names -- Sir Nicholas, for example. The seven bridesmaids received jewelry in the color of the rainbow they wore and an initialized handbag filled with stuff the bride famously loves: Chapstick, mints and Tide to Go sticks.
A week in Venice, Italy.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Msgr. Gregory Parlante, St. Cornelius Church, Chadds Ford.
Ceremony: St. Patrick Church, Malvern.
Reception: Radisson Hotel Valley Forge, King of Prussia.
Photography: Sparks Photography, Philadelphia.
Music: Synergetic Sound + Lighting, Bensalem.