'World's longest Down's syndrome marriage' ends after 25 years after husband dies
An American couple who shared the longest Down Syndrome marriage ever have been parted from one another following the news that the husband had died.
After a long and difficult battle with Alzheimer's disease, 56-year-old Paul Scharoun-DeForge passed away, leaving his wife, 59-year-old Kris, by herself. Relatives of the couple believe that the marriage was the longest between two people living with Down's Syndrome.
Marrying all the way back in 1993, Paul and Kris (from Liverpool in the state of New York) met at a dance for disabled people in the 80s. "I looked into Paul’s eyes and saw my future," Kris explained to Today.
In 1988, Paul proposed to the love of his life. "He made me laugh," explained Kris to the Washington Post. "I looked into his eyes and saw my future, and that's when I proposed to him… He said yes."
After five years of engagement, Kris and Paul got married in 1993, and Susan Scharoun, Kris’ sister, says the couple had earned the right to choose their own future.
"They have an unconditional love. They totally complement each other," Scharoun said, adding that, although they had their differences, they did their best to support one another.
"She is more emotionally vulnerable and he has always been her rock," she said. "She would plan what they would do and really be responsible for the social events. They had a lot of struggles. I saw them as individuals who should have a right to make that decision."
Marriage is a universal part of the human experience, and people have a universal desire to spend it with someone they love, said Erin Sobkowski, a lawyer and officer with 21 Connect, a community group educating people about Down's Syndrome.
Hearing that her husband had passed was, of course, a hard thing for Kris to process.
"We had to tell her he wasn’t going to come back and it became really difficult for her," Scharoun said, adding that Paul had begun not to recognise people when his Alzheimer's began to worsen.
"When he would see Kris, he would just look at her, and you knew there was that recognition," Scharoun added.
Paul had been in intensive care to help him with his condition, but in March, he was returned to inpatient care with a bout of pneumonia. Kris sat next to him, holding his hand and staying with her husband the whole time. Later, he placed his head on his brother's shoulder, and died peacefully.
"I was very, very upset," Kris said of her husband's passing, adding that she'd given him a picture of a butterfly that hung beside his bed. "I gave it to my sweetheart, and he loved it. I think of Paul flying up in the air … and being free."
On August 13, the date of their wedding anniversary, Kris plans to go to a special place to scatter Paul's ashes.