A couple believed to have had the longest Down syndrome marriage have been parted from one another after the husband died.
Paul Scharoun-DeForge passed away in April at the age of 56, after having battled with Alzheimer’s disease. He leaves behind his adored wife of 25 years, Kris Scharoun-DeForge, 59.
Relatives believe the couple had shared the longest marriage ever recorded between two people with Down syndrome, and have described them as being ‘role models’.
When Kris Scharoun-DeForge spotted Paul DeForge she fell in love. While many doubted them, the couple with Down syndrome just celebrated 25 years of marriage. pic.twitter.com/LuJdexB4Z7
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 24, 2018
As reported by The Washington Post, Paul and Kris first met in in the 1980s, while attending a dance for people with disabilities. The mutual attraction was instantaneous, and the pair went on to date for many years.
It was Kris who took the plunge and asked Paul to marry her in 1988, telling The Washington Post:
He made me laugh.
I looked into his eyes and saw my future, and that’s when I proposed to him. … He said yes.
Sadly, they faced various hurdles when trying to get married, and had to prove to the state that they understood what they were consenting to by getting married. This included taking Planned Parenthood sponsored classes and sitting tests which measured their understanding of sexual knowledge, feelings and needs.
Eventually, in 1993, they were permitted to marry after a five-year long engagement. In an unusual move for the time, they combined their surnames, with Kris’ surname coming first.
When Kris Scharoun-DeForge spotted Paul DeForge she fell in love. While many doubted them, the couple with Down syndrome just celebrated 25 years of marriage. pic.twitter.com/WacxmSuEba
— Dolan Fund (@DolanFund) August 29, 2018
The couple, described as being ‘popular and well-liked’, both led full and productive lives together, defying expectations.
They both had jobs. Paul worked at Arc of Onondaga’s workshop – an organisation for those with disabilities – while Kris was employed at Pizza Hut before working at the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
They would holiday together in the Adirondack Mountains to celebrate their anniversaries, were proud godparents, and felt themselves to be very lucky.
Kris’s elder sister, Susan Scharoun, told The Washington Post:
They are role models for everybody who wants a good relationship,
They were a team: They deferred to each other and looked out for each other.
Before Paul died, Kris drew a picture of a butterfly – a creature that he loved – to hang on the wall beside his bed.
Kris told The Washington Post how she now thought of her late husband as being a butterfly:
I think of Paul flying up in the air … and being free.
Our thoughts are with the family of Paul Scharoun-DeForge at this difficult time.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.