They say love overcomes all. A New York couple with Down’s Syndrome who have been together for decades is proof of this. We know how Down’s Syndrome is a debilitating condition that affects even the basic functions of daily life. Kris Scharoun-DeForge, 58, and Paul Scharoun-DeForge, 54, who were born with the condition have defied all odds and are believed to be the longest married couple with the condition according to Reader’s Digest. The story about their love has inspired and awed people all over the world. The two tied the knot 25 years ago but their love for each other doesn’t seem to have extinguished one bit. When Kris speaks about her husband you can feel the deep love she has for him, even after all these years. Talking about falling in love with Paul when they first met at a dance 30 years ago, Kris said, “I looked into his eyes and saw my future.” The next moment she added, “He opened up my world.” She had her arm resting on Paul’s. It’s no wonder then when they got married, they even decided to join their last names into one.
For a number of years now, the couple has been diligently celebrating Valentine’s Day. Although one could also say that every day is Valentine’s Day when you have extremely loving better halves like these. However, for Kris and Paul, something special always had to be done on the day. There was a set routine that Kris used to follow on the day with her husband like clockwork and this has gone on for many many years.
Besides many things, Kris loves papercraft. On V-Day, she would make an elaborate card with her own hands and wait for him when he came back home from work. They would then go out to eat, maybe at an Olive Garden or Red Lobster or even some someplace as basic as their beloved Subway. This, however, in no way takes away the fact Kris is excellent at cooking and that her husband would gobble up and savor anything that she prepares for him.
The Valentine’s Day of 2018, however, was the most eventful one. That’s because this was the couple 25th year together as husband and wife. A few months later on August 13, the couple celebrated 25 years of getting married. When they got married many believed that people with Down’s “didn’t have the emotional maturity to be married”. However, despite her condition, Kris always knew there was a prince charming out there for her. As a little girl, she used to cut wedding photos from magazines and hang them on her wall.
It goes without saying that the couple has achieved this feat with a lot of struggle and pain. Last year’s Valentine’s Day was also the first in which they were not together since Paul has been coping with early-stage dementia, a common illness that affects people with Down’s Syndrome. The state also moved Paul into a community residence with intensive nursing care since they felt their place then did not have the proper arrangement for a person with the condition.
Kris said, “When they told me, I started to cry. He’s my life. I don’t want to be without him.” While it may have been the journey of Paul and Kris, they have had immense support from their respective families. They have also worked hard to keep the couple together. According to them, the couple deserves the chance to make the same decisions as any couple when one partner faces dementia. “They should define their own lives. They know what is good for them,” said Susan Scharoun, Kris’s sister.
According to Pauls’ mother, Lorraine DeForge, he is a fighter. She pointed out how with help from his seven brothers and sisters, he mastered the bus service in Syracuse. He also spent many years working at the Arc of Onondaga’s vocational division. In 2013, this local chapter of the Arc, a nationwide community organization that advocates for the developmentally disabled, cited Paul’s as the Person of the Year commending him for his work ethic, community service, and good cheer.
DeForge was also told by her doctor to “not expect much” when Paul was born. However, he grew up to live a successful life that included a marriage that has lasted all these years. Kris has had her struggles too. While she speaks with passion for the support of her parents, she spent a year as a child in a state institution after her father died young and her mother became ill. “It was hard,” she said quietly, recalling the sense of isolation. Not one to give up easily, Kris never gave up hope. Kris visited Paul regularly, and they spent weekends together at Scharoun’s house. “They have unconditional love. They totally complement each other,” said Schroun.