The husband of the longest Down syndrome marriage to date has passed away. 56-year-old Paul Scharoun-DeForge died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, 59-year-old Kris is now a widower after a 25-year marriage.
Relatives of the couple feel that it may be the longest marriage of two individuals who both have Down syndrome.
Paul and Kris, from Liverpool, New York were married in 1993. They met back in the 80s at a dance for disabled individuals. “I looked into Paul’s eyes and saw my future,” Kris said.
She popped the question in 1988. Kris said: “He made me laugh. I looked into his eyes and saw my future, and that’s when I proposed to him… He said yes.”
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.” https://t.co/3sFUaDFTa9 pic.twitter.com/1kehavvPHp— WOWT 6 News (@WOWT6News) August 24, 2018
After being engaged for five years, they got married in 1993. Kris’ sister, Susan Scharoun said they had the right to choose a future of their own.
“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.”
Erin Sobkowski is a lawyer and an officer with a community group that educates people about Down syndrome. She said that marriage is a universal part of the human experience and that all people have a desire to spend life with someone they love.
Kris had a difficult time processing the fact that her husband had passed away.
“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 recognize 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 was in intensive care to help with his ongoing condition but he returned to inpatient care with pneumonia in March. Kris stayed with him the whole time, sitting next to him and holding his hand. He later placed his head on his brother’s shoulder and peacefully passed away.
“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.”
Kris plans on traveling to a special place to scatter his ashes on their anniversary wedding date, August 13.