Couple with Down syndrome beat the odds, celebrate 25 years of marriage together

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Kris and Paul Scharoun- DeForge

Almost twenty-six years ago on August 13, 1993, Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge were married in Syracuse. It was a dream come true for Kris, who used to pin pictures of wedding dresses on her wall as a little girl. When she met her future husband at a dance for the developmentally disabled, she instantly knew he was the one.

“I looked into his eyes and saw my future,” Kris said.

For Kris, now 58, the prospects of getting married seemed too good to be true back then, but last year she celebrated her 25th silver anniversary, renewing wedding vows with her loving husband, who is now 54. They beat the odds, though many people opposed the idea of their marriage at the time.

Kris’ sister, Susan Scharoun, was one of the people who recognized their deep love for each other from the beginning.

“They have an unconditional love. They totally complement each other.”

“I saw them as individuals who should have a right to make that decision,” said Scharoun.

The couple both have Down syndrome and may have the longest marriage on record of any couple where both partners have the condition. Another couple from the UK, Maryanne and Tommy Pilling, have been married for over 23 years.

After five years of engagement, the official wedding plans were realized. They married before a crowd of 150 guests at Le Moyne Manor.

On Valentine’s Day, just like every Valentine’s Day, Kris created a special hand-made card for Paul.

Paul’s mother, Lorraine DeForge, spoke with pride about her son’s accomplishments in the Buffalo News. She was told “not to expect much” by doctors when he was born.

Nevertheless, he was able to achieve many things: He mastered the bus service in busy Syracuse. In 2013, he was recognized by an agency serving people with developmental disabilities as “Person of the Year” for his community service, selfless nature, and strong work ethic. He held down many different jobs over his life and has a successful marriage for a quarter-century. Not too shabby!

Kris, a High School graduate, has worked in a busy mailroom, enjoys cooking, arranging social events, and supporting and comforting Paul, who has been her “rock” over the years, according to Scharoun.

Today, both of them are facing health issues that have made it harder for the devoted couple to live together. Kris bravely injects insulin shots multiple times daily for diabetes, while Paul has early-onset dementia, a condition more likely for those with Down syndrome.

Paul was forced to move into a community residence with intensive nursing care. The family did all they could to keep the couple together, finding accommodations that would allow Paul to maneuver in a wheelchair. Kris regularly visits to cook for her groom.

“He’s my life,” Kris said. “I don’t want to be without him.”

Today, Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge, who chose to share each other’s last names, are proof that people with intellectual disabilities can have long, meaningful, and fulfilling marriages.

An advocate for the Down syndrome community in Buffalo, Erin Sobkowski put if perfectly:

“Marriage is a universal part of the human experience, and people have a universal desire to spend it with someone they love,” said Sobkowski.

“People with Down syndrome have an extraordinary and stunning capacity to love,” Sobkowski said. “It is very true and very pure and comes without conditions.”

See the video from TODAY below:


Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube