Couple with Down Syndrome were married for 26 years, despite resistance from their critics – and now the widow is sharing tales of their incredible bond after her husband’s death
- Kris Scharoun-DeForge spoke of her love for her husband Paul who died in April
- Kris, 59, met Paul, 56, in 1988 and they wed five years later, and relatives claim their marriage was the longest between two people with Down Syndrome
- She revealed she asked Paul to marry her, saying ‘he was the only one for me’
- Kris hopes that people with disabilities have the same chance to find love
- The couple had to overcome official obstacles so they could marry in New York
An American woman with Down Syndrome who lost her husband after 26 years of marriage told how he ‘was the only one for me’ as she scattered his ashes at lake in New York.
Kris Scharoun-DeForge, 59, met Paul Scharoun-DeForge in 1988 and they married five years later, becoming one of the first couples in the world with Down syndrome to tie the knot.
Paul passed away in April at the age of 56, after a long battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, leaving Kris widowed.
Now she has opened up about the incredible bond between them and how they supported each other unconditionally during their decades long relationship.
Kris Scharoun-DeForge spoke of her love for her husband Paul, who died in April. Relatives believe their marriage was the longest between two people with Down Syndrome
Kris Scharoun-DeForge (right) met Paul Scharoun-DeForge (left) in 1988 and they married five years later, despite tests having to prove they were able to consent to the vow
Kris’ family and friends gathered at a lake near New York’s Adirondack Mountains to pay tribute to Paul.
Kris told CBS:’I proposed to him. I whispered in his ear, “Would you marry me?”, And he looked up at me with this big beautiful smile and he shook his head “Yes!,” And that’s when I knew. ‘He got me laughing, he was the one for me.’
Relatives believe their marriage was the longest between two people with the condition.
The couple from the town of Liverpool in New York state, were both born with Down syndrome, but their families ignored doctors’ advice to place them in institutions.
It was love at first sight met at a dance for disabled people in the 1980s.
Kris’ elder sister Susan Scharoun said the couple met a lot of resistance during their initial courtship, and she now hopes it will be easier for people with disabilities to do things able-minded people can do.
‘Yea, there really was quite a bit of resistance. There was a feeling that it was like children getting married versus two very capable adults,’ Susan said.
‘What I hope is that other families will entertain this, you know, other people will recognize the importance of this kind of intimate love.’
Kris’ elder sister Susan Scharoun, (pictured), said the couple met a lot of resistance during their initial courtship, and she now hopes it will be easier for other couples now
Kris’ family and friends gathered at a lake near New York’s Adirondack Mountains to pay tribute to Paul, where she spread part of her ashes
Kris spread a portion of her husband’s ashes near the lake where he loved to fish at the end of the ceremony, and hers will be buried alongside his when the time comes.
She added: ‘People like us need to have a chance. A chance to find the man of your dreams, like I did.
‘I just lost the man that I love, but I’m going to try,’ she added when asked if she could love someone again.
It took five years for them to win the right to wed from New York state officials.
They were forced to take tests of their sexual knowledge, feelings and needs to prove they were able to consent to marriage.
After their marriage the couple took each other’s names, with the bride’s unconventionally coming first.
Kris revealed that she proposed to Paul and he said yes, adding: ‘He was the only man for me’
Last year they celebrated 25 years of marriage on August 13 by renewing their vows, after Kris was hospitalized with pneumonia.
The eulogy read by a relative at his funeral in Liverpool on April 6 expressed how lucky Paul believed he was.
‘To an outsider, it may not seem that way — but to those of us who knew and loved him, it’s absolutely true,’ it said.
‘They are role models for everybody who wants a good relationship,’ Kris’s elder sister Susan Scharoun told the Washington Post. ‘They were a team: They deferred to each other and looked out for each other.’
Susan, a psychology professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, recalled earlier this year that at Kris’s hen party a friend asked her what she loved about Paul.
Kris replied that she really loved that he had Down syndrome. ‘For us, that was a complete acceptance of self,’ said Susan.
Paul and Kris renewed their wedding vows in August 2018 after she was hospitalized with pneumonia. They are pictured at the end of the ceremony
Paul began showing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease last year, and eventually had to go into care, which left Kris distraught
The couple lived together in an apartment in a state-supported sheltered housing project for people with disabilities.
Both had jobs, Paul at the Arc of Onondaga, an organisation for people with disabilities, and Kris at Pizza Hut before moving to the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
The often celebrated their wedding anniversary with holidays in the Adirondack Mountains.
Paul began showing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease last year, and eventually had to go into care, which left Kris distraught.
But they were still able to share Sunday dinners at Susan’s home.
‘Little by little, you do get used to having them less there,’ Susan said.
‘He was still a part of the family, but you could tell he didn’t really recognize people.’
But Paul had no trouble remembering his sweetheart.
‘When he would see Kris, he would just look at her, and you knew there was that recognition,’ Susan told the Washington Post.
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