Woman, 83, Denied Former Fiancé's Friend Request 60 Years After He Broke Her Heart — Now They're Newlyweds

Ed Sneckenberger, 85, wanted to apologize for ending his engagement to Priscilla Matheny in a 1963 letter, but she just wanted to "get rid of him" until they met for coffee last year

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger at their nupitals Dec. 7, with Rev. Ron Schlak. Photo: Brian Green

Ed Sneckenberger didn't know what to expect when he walked into a Panera restaurant in Hagerstown, Md., a day before Easter last year.

He was going to meet his first love, Priscilla Matheny, whom he hadn't seen in 60 years after he ended their engagement in 1963 with a surprising Dear John letter.

"I remembered this lady that I had probably hurt 60 years ago," Ed tells PEOPLE. "And I needed to say I'm sorry."

Priscilla didn't want to have anything to do with him but reluctantly agreed to meet the man who broke her heart decades ago.

Nearly eight months after their reunion — which she thought would begin and end over coffee at Panera — Ed and Priscilla married on Dec. 7, 2022, at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, where Ed and his family were members when he was a child.

"A miracle happened," he says. "I feel so blessed to be with this lady."

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger on their wedding day. Brian Green

Prior to their meeting in spring 2022, Ed, now 85, last spent time with Priscilla, 83, in early 1963. They'd gotten engaged the previous September, in 1962, announcing their good news in a local paper, The Herald-Mail.

Around that time, Ed, who grew up on a farm outside of Hagerstown, went off to college a few hours away at West Virginia University.

Priscilla, a Hagerstown native, took the bus to visit her fiancé at his school in Morgantown a few times. But in March 1963, she received a unexpected letter.

"Of course I was excited because I thought it was one of my nice letters I'd been getting," she recalls in an interview with PEOPLE. "And it was a Dear John letter [saying] that he was breaking our engagement."

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Ed admits now that when he wrote that letter, he was feeling the financial pressures of school and that the idea of marriage had become overwhelming.

"It broke my heart, which he never even knew," Priscilla says, "because I never saw him or talked to him after that letter."

She moved on with her life and was working as a secretary when she met Wally Matheny. In November of that year, they wed.

"I just really thought," she says of her first husband, "that the Lord sent him to me to heal my broken heart."

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger on their 2-month wedding anniversary. Courtesy of Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger

Meanwhile, Ed became consumed by his studies, earning a master's and PhD in mechanical engineering at WVU. In 1968, he married, saying "I do" to Scottie Hansbrough, another woman from his hometown.

For 36 years, Ed taught at WVU in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He also worked for federal agencies, including NASA.

Both couples had children — and later, grandchildren.

When Priscilla's husband Wally died in 1986, she remained in Hagerstown, devoted to her Lutheran church and family.

In October 2021, Ed's wife Scottie died. After 53 years of marriage, he was a widower and began nightly calls with his two sisters. Those conversations led him to the realization that he had unresolved business with the woman he'd wanted to marry in 1962.

"I was grieving," Ed says. "And my youngest sister, sometime in the spring of last year, said, 'Priscilla was such a good lady.'"

So, he decided to find her. "I just took it upon myself to say, 'I need to say I'm sorry," Ed explains.

Within a week, in April 2022, he saw a Priscilla Matheny commenting on the Facebook page of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, the church he attended as a child.

He sent her a friend request. She denied him.

"I thought, 'What is with this guy?' Priscilla recalls. "I don't want to be friends with him on Facebook."

She ignored the notes he sent to her via Facebook messenger.

"I told her she was my heart's desire," Ed says.

"I thought that took a lot of nerve," Priscilla adds.

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger. Brian Green

Undeterred, Ed reached out to the church and asked its secretary to pass along his desire to get together with Priscilla when he returned to Hagerstown for Easter.

"I told the secretary, 'You tell him I don't want to see him," Priscilla recalls to PEOPLE. "I thought 'What's going on? Why does he want to see me now after what he did to me?'"

Priscilla decided the only way to "get rid of him" was to meet Ed for coffee at Panera when he came back to town. On Good Friday, she messaged him.

"I'm going to find out what's going on," she says, "and that'll be the end of it."

The pair ended up talking for two hours. Ed asked for Priscilla's phone number and address. "But really, when I walked away from Panera, I had not expected to see him again," she says.

That night, Ed called. "I had a pretty bad evening with tears, because I think I realized that there was still some love there for him," Priscilla says. "Which I probably would have denied."

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger at a restaurant the night of their wedding. Courtesy of Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger

To avoid seeing Ed again, Priscilla skipped church and watched Easter service on the Internet. After it ended, Ed called — he was outside her door.

"She let me in," he says. "Sunday afternoon was the time when the flames — we couldn't hold them back."

The pair hugged. "For me it was like 60 years just went away," says Ed, who once again asked Priscilla to marry him that afternoon.

"And I'm kind of like, 'Whoa, I'm not ready for this, it's way too soon," Priscilla recalls of the surprise proposal. "And I said, 'I have no plans to get married again.'"

After Ed drove back to his home in Morgantown, he couldn't stop thinking about Priscilla. He even told his daughters he was in love with a woman he knew before he met their mom.

Just about every weekend, Ed drove to Hagerstown to visit Priscilla. By June, she accepted his proposal and they were engaged again.

"One of the things that brought us together to begin with was our belief in God and our Christian background," says Priscilla, who first met Ed in her late teens through their Lutheran churches' activities.

"I knew he was still a good Christian guy, and he's very caring, a sweet guy," she says. "These are some of the things that I loved about him before."

Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger
Priscilla and Ed Sneckenberger. Brian Green

For Priscilla, a long engagement sounded perfect, but Ed suggested a fall wedding. "It was a gradual weakening on her part from never to eventually her agreeing to do it," he tells PEOPLE.

Now, after two months of marriage, with the pair living in Priscilla's home, "I couldn't be happier. I felt like this was God's gift to me," says Ed.

Priscilla, meanwhile, feels the same. "He is still a good man overall, kind, thoughtful, caring. It's nice to have somebody like him in my life and share the rest of our lives together."

Now the couple, who are finally married, enjoy day and overnight trips, attending church, seeing movies, and going to symphony concerts together.

"She makes me feel five years younger," Ed says. "I'm overwhelmed with happiness."

Priscilla, meanwhile, has some advice for the lovelorn.

"Never give up hope," she says. "In my case, it was shocking. Just hope that someday there's somebody who's going to come along."

Or, in her case, back.

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