Paul and Kris Scharoun-DeForge were told not to marry, but when they renewed their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary last year, they proved all the doubters wrong.
Paul & Kris first US couple with Down syndrome to celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary
Paul Scharoun-DeForge was born with Down syndrome. In 1994, he married his wife Kris, a young woman he met at a dance. The decision was another step forward within the civil rights revolution that changed the lives of countless Americans with developmental disabilities. Kris, too, was born with Down syndrome, and their marriage of 25 years is believed to have been among the longest in history for two people with that genetic condition. Paul passed away in March 2019 at the age of 56. He shared 25 years of wedded bliss with his beloved wife, Kris.
The couple celebrated 25 years of marriage on August 13, 2018, by renewing their vows
Three decades ago, Kris Scharoun-DeForge went to a dance, spotted Paul DeForge and immediately fell in love. Reflecting on that day, she often says, “I looked into Paul’s eyes and saw my future.”
The couple, who both have Down syndrome, celebrated 25 years of marriage on August 13, 2018, by renewing their vows.
“They have an unconditional love,” Susan Scharoun, Kris’ sister, told TODAY. “They totally complement each other.”
Supporting each other unconditionally remains the secret to their decades-long marriage. Kris, 58, managed their activities and lifestyle, while Paul, 54, always provided emotional support for Kris.
"She is more emotionally vulnerable and he has always been her rock," Scharoun said. "She would plan what they would do and really be responsible for the social events."
But getting to the altar wasn’t easy. Many were opposed to their relationship and didn’t believe people with Down syndrome should marry. At the time, Kris and Paul seemed like the only couple with an developmental disability considering marriage.
“They had a lot of struggles,” Scharoun said. “I saw them as individuals who should have a right to make that decision.”
The couple were determined to to share their life together in Syracuse, New York
“When they were approaching the five-year engagement mark they really wanted to get married, so we started to plan their wedding,” Scharoun said.
She served as the maid of honor and Paul’s brother was the best man. The reception for 150 guests took place at Le Moyne Manor. For Kris, being a bride was her dream come true. As a young girl, she clipped pictures of wedding dresses from magazines and decorated her room with them.
“Their wedding was a wonderful affair,” Scharoun said. “Kris’ main desire has always been to be a ‘me of a we.’”
Over the years, Kris loved cooking for Paul and the two often bowled and attended dances together. They vacationed at Scharoun’s camp in the Adirondack Mountains and are godparents to Scharoun’s daughter. And, they always supported and comforted each other.
“They have been a role model for unconditional positive regard in a relationship,” Scharoun said.
Scharoun believes that her sister and brother-in-law might have the longest marriage of any couple where both people have Down syndrome. The only other couple Scharoun knows of is Maryanne and Tommy Pilling, of the United Kingdom, who have been married for 23 years.
Paul Jeffrey Scharoun-DeForge, husband of Kris Scharoun-DeForge passed away on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Paul and Kris were married for twenty-five wonderful years. This special couple are the first in the United States, both with Down Syndrome, to reach their silver wedding anniversary.
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