After 25 years, the marriage between 58-year-old Paul Scharoun-DeForge and his wife Kris, 59, ended when Mr. Scharoun-DeForge passed away from complications of a long battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that this is the longest marriage in history of a couple with Down Syndrome.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Scharoun-DeForge were born with Down Syndrome but their parents would not send them away to institutions. The Liverpool, New York couple who met in a dance for disabled people made news in the late 1980s when they sought marriage and encountered an uphill battle. The process took five years of tests designed to check their sexual knowledge, their needs, and their feelings to demonstrate that they were able to consent to the marriage.
Mrs. Scharoun-DeForge recalled to the Washington Post that when she proposed to Paul: “He made me laugh” and “I looked into his eyes and saw my future, and that’s when I proposed to him.” The couple renewed their wedding vows in early August this year after Mrs. Scharoun-DeForge recuperated from a hospital stay for pneumonia.
Mr. Scharoun-DeForge was buried April 6. A eulogy given by a family member read in part: “to an outsider, it may not seem that way—but to those of us who knew and loved him, it’s absolutely true … they are role models for everybody who wants a good relationship.” The elder sister of Mrs. Scharoun-DeForge, Susan Scharoun, said that “they were a team” and that “they looked out for each other.”
Well-wishers posting through Facebook shared their heartfelt sadness and empathy for Kris. One commenter wrote: “I remember when they got married. So glad they had such a happy life. Rest in Peace and I hope all the good memories bring Kris comfort.”
May we remember the widow, Mrs. Scharoun-DeForge, in our prayers—for her consolation during this time of the great loss of her true soulmate.
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