The World’s Longest Down's Syndrome Marriage Ends At 25 Years As Husband Passes Away
Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge lived a real-life Romeo And Juliet tale of forbidden, or rather unconventional, love. While their families didn’t hold them apart, society, in general, has typically seen people with Down’s Syndrome as incapable of a mature romantic relationship, much less a marriage of over two decades.
These two beat the odds and proved love doesn’t have boundaries.
Love Doesn’t Fit In A Neat Box
Love is more than a word. It’s beyond an emotional state. No, love is a verb. It’s a force. It drives people to do incredible things and overcome unimaginable obstacles. Something full of such wonder simply can’t be labeled, put in a box, and placed neatly on a shelf.
Nothing proves this more than the love story of Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge, both of whom were diagnosed with Down’s syndrome as children. The two love birds met over 30 years ago at a dance. It was an instant connection and attraction.
Kris would later say that Paul opened her world and that she’d seen her future in his eyes that fateful night at the dance.
Five years later, in 1994, the two were married. It would be a marriage that spanned 25 years and is perhaps the longest of any married couple with Down’s syndrome. Over the years, the couple became civic figures and paved the way for change concerning people born with developmental disabilities. Their love story defied the odds. It showed the world that people with disabilities can and do have meaningful romantic relationships.
Paul was a high school graduate, held multiple jobs, mastered public transit, and was even honored as 2013 Person of the Year by ARC of Onondaga. Sadly, he had recently developed Alzheimer’s disease and early-stage dementia, which is a common ailment that plagues the aging Down’s Syndrome community. With the backing of loved ones, Kris petitioned the state to allow Paul and her to remain in their Syracuse apartment with supportive staff to manage his disease in its earliest state. Eventually, Paul’s health declined to the point the couple had to be separated.
He needed intensive nursing care and was moved to a community residence. The two saw each other as often as possible, and they made the most out of what would be their final months together.
A Bittersweet Ending
Kris was recovering from her own health battle with pneumonia at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse when Paul dropped by for their 25th wedding anniversary. Despite both being in wheelchairs, the dynamic duo renewed their wedding vows in the hospital chapel. Six months later, the two would celebrate Valentine’s Day together with a surprise visit from the Harmony Katz. Kris lovingly put her arms around her husband and soaked in the words to songs like “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” It would be their last holiday together. Kris drew a beautiful butterfly to hang by Paul’s bed. She also wrote him a note to say that he was the man of her dreams.
At 56-years-old, Paul would die just a couple months after Valentine’s Day from complications of dementia/Alzheimer’s. At 59-years-old, Kris is now a widow. Yet their story will live on as an inspiration and paving stone for love everywhere.
Do you know someone with an unconventional love story? Or have you ever been part of one yourself? Tell us your stories, thoughts, and questions in the comment section. Don’t forget to pass the story along so it can continue to offer inspiration to others and show them that love can indeed conquer all.