A couple defied skeptics and proved doubters wrong when they married in 1995, becoming the first couple with Down’s syndrome to become husband and wife, both in the UK and worldwide.
Time and again, we come across heart-touching tales of true love surviving the odds. However, when such stories are centered around people with physical or mental disabilities, they become more impactful.
One such inspiring story is that of Tommy and Maryanne Pilling, who showed the world that love transcends all boundaries and has the power to make anything possible.
[Left] Tommy and Maryanne pictured on their wedding day. [Right] Tommy and Maryanne pictured on their trip to Disneyland. | Photo: facebook.com/maryanneandtom
Maryanne was born on May 17, 1971. Even though she had a loving mother, Linda Martin, and an affectionate sister, Lindi Newman, her carer, life wasn’t always easy for her. She was rejected by her father, Martin’s first husband.
But because of the love and support she received from her mother, Maryanne grew up to be a lively and gregarious girl. Tommy was born on March 21, 1958 (World Down Syndrome Day).
He was an only child and became orphaned at the age of 12, after which he grew up in an Essex care home. Having no close support system meant that his development was impaired, and he paid hardly any attention to his physical appearance.
Tommy and Maryanne crossed paths in 1990 while working in the kitchen at a local training home for people with disabilities. He was 32 at the time, while she was only 19. Talking about her daughter’s feelings, Martin said:
“Whenever she [Maryanne] spoke about him [Tommy], she couldn’t stop beaming.”
Guessing from the way Maryanne had introduced Tommy to her family, they knew she was smitten with him. They shared several interests, including their love for cooking, music, dining out, watching movies, or just enjoying doing craftwork together.
The couple also loved dancing, as Tommy was a huge fan of Elvis Presley and didn’t hesitate to express his love before Maryanne and her family when he became more comfortable with them.
Soon, they began dating, and after 18 months, Tommy popped the big question to Maryanne. However, like a true gentleman, he proceeded to ask her mother for permission first, and she had no reservations. She gave the happy couple her blessings.
Unfortunately, others were not so open-minded, and many confronted Martin whenever she left the house. Some even told her she had no idea what she had started, while others asked her about Maryanne and Tommy’s sex life.
Despite the harsh comments and criticism, Martin always supported her daughter. On July 15, 1995, Tommy and Maryanne tied the knot in a grand ceremony, surrounded by 250 guests. Talking about the fairytale wedding, Newman revealed:
“Maryanne looked like a princess in her beautiful white dress, tiara, and long veil. Tommy looked very dapper in his made-to-measure suit.”
As they walked down the aisle of St. Mary The Virgin Church in Essex, England, they became the first couple with Down’s syndrome to get married in the UK and worldwide.
After their marriage, Tommy lived with Maryanne’s family for seven years. The couple then moved into their own apartment next door, with Maryanne’s sister, Newman becoming their carer. Newman shared her thoughts on their lovely relationship:
“He sits back and listens, and she likes that. What keeps their marriage so strong is that there is never a hidden agenda. They love each other with their whole hearts and are honest with one another.”
The couple enjoyed going to theme parks, enjoying romantic dinner dates, watching movies, bowling, golfing, and spending time with their family. Tommy referred to Maryanne as “his love,” while she lovingly introduced him as “her husband.”
Sadly, their life became difficult when Tommy got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago. He became affected by COVID-19 and was hospitalized in December last year, but he could not survive due to his worsening health.
Tommy passed away on January 1 at the age of 62, leaving his love of nearly 30 years alone. Her mother broke the sad news to her, and even though she seemed to understand, she later asked when Tommy would come home.
The heartwarming love story of Tommy and Maryanne silenced the doubters and haters and proved to the world that any obstacle could be overcome with love.