'World's longest Down syndrome marriage' ends after 25 years as husband dies at the age of 56
A man with Down syndrome, who had successfully overcome all odds and was in what is believed to be the world's longest marriage between a couple with the condition, has passed away at the age of 56.
Paul Scharoun-DeForge, who hails from Liverpool in New York, would have grown up in a care institution if his parents had listened to doctors when he was a baby. The parents of Kris, Paul's wife, had also considered putting her in a residential facility after she was born with the same condition. However, the couple were able to defy all odds and stayed married for 25 years.
They had initially met at a dance for people with disabilities in the 1980s and had instantly fallen in love. They dated for almost a decade before getting engaged in 1988, after Kris proposed to him. The pair could not get married until they could prove to New York state officials that they were able to give their consent to the relationship.
At the time, Kris reportedly said, "I looked into his eyes and saw my future, and that’s when I proposed to him… He said yes." She also told her sister Susan Scharoun that she likes "a man who is like me". Once the pair was able to get married, they shifted to a state-supported apartment community for people with disabilities and also had the help of carers.
Kris was able to secure a job at Pizza Hut while Paul worked at the Arc of Onondaga's workshop. Last year, Paul began to show signs of having dementia which tends to affect more than half the people with Down syndrome who are over the age of 50. Kris' sister Susan revealed how the man who her family had known, slowly began to slip away.
She also shared how Paul never stopped recognizing his wife. "Little by little, you do get used to having them less there. He was still a part of the family, but you could tell he didn’t really recognize people. When he would see Kris, he would just look at her, and you knew there was that recognition," Susan shared.
Eventually, Paul's condition deteriorated and he had to move out of their home so that he could get additional support. The couple would meet for dinner every Sunday at Susan's house. They had celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows after Kris recovered from pneumonia. A couple of months later, Paul contracted the same disease and passed away in hospital last month.
Kris is planning to travel to the couple's favorite holiday spot, the Adirondack Mountains, in August to scatter the ashes of her husband on their wedding anniversary.