Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge lived a real-life Romeo And Juliet tale of forbidden, or rather unconventional, love. Although their families do not distinguish them, society generally considers people with Down syndrome to be incapable of forming a mature relationship. They have been together for 25 years.
Love is more than a word. It’s beyond an emotional state. Nothing proves this more than the love story of Kris and Paul Scharoun-DeForge, both of whom were diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome when they were children. The two love birds met over 30 years ago at a dance.
Kris will later say that Paul opened his world and saw his future dancing in his eyes on that fateful night.
Five years later, in 1994, the two were married. It would be a marriage that spanned 25 years and is perhaps the longest of any married couple with Down’s. Over the years, the couple became a middle-class person and paved the way for changes in people with intellectual disabilities. His love story challenged adversities. It showed the world that people with disabilities can and do have meaningful romantic relationships.
Paul was a high school graduate, held multiple jobs, mastered public transit, and was even honored as 2013 Person of the Year by ARC of Onondaga. Sadly, he had recently developed Alzheimer’s disease and early-stage dementia, which is a common ailment that plagues the aging Down’s Syndrome community.
Kris was recovering from her own health battle with pneumonia at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse when Paul dropped by for their 25th wedding anniversary. Despite both being in wheelchairs, the dynamic duo renewed their wedding vows in the hospital chapel.
Six months later, the two would celebrate Valentine’s Day together with a surprise visit from the Harmony Katz. Kris lovingly put her arms around her husband and soaked in the words to songs like “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” It would be his last vacation together. Kris drew a beautiful butterfly to hang him in Paul’s bed. She also wrote to him that he was the man of his dreams.
At 56-years-old, Paul would die just a couple months after Valentine’s Day from complications of dementia/Alzheimer’s. At 59-years-old, Kris is now a widow. Yet their story will live on as an inspiration and paving stone for love everywhere.