At an office Christmas party in 1999, Matthew Horning told a colleague he had two goals: improving at guitar and finding someone to love.
In January he started taking guitar lessons. In August he met Maura Landry, who also lived in Hoboken, N.J.
'Hi,' he called down the table at a Mexican restaurant where mutual friends had gathered. 'We’re neighbors.'
In the following months, Mr. Horning’s grin grew into what his family called the 'Maura smile.' He started getting sappy, observed his sister, Dana.
A database administrator for Marsh & McLennan, Mr. Horning, 26, aspired to write a fantasy novel or a comic book. His dreams were simple and sincere. 'We didn’t have to live in the biggest house on the street, but the people inside had to be happy,' said Ms. Landry, 24.
Though not yet engaged, the couple were planning a life together. She wanted four children; he talked her down to three. He wanted her to walk down the aisle to the 'Star Wars' theme. She said, 'We’ll see.'