The UK’s first down syndrome couple that has made history have celebrated their 25th anniversary.
Maryanne and Tommy Pilling tied the knot in 1995 and ever since have had a “fairytale” romance, loving nothing more than snuggling and kissing on the sofa.
For this cute couple, it was certainly love at first sight when they met a life skills training centre in 1990.
After losing both of his parents at just 12-years-old, Tommy was living in residential care at the time.
Yet when he met Maryanne, her parents took him under their wing and the pair instantly became inseparable.
Just a year and a half after the pair met, Tommy asked Maryanne’s mum for permission to marry her daughter. Seeing the heartwarming connection they had, her mum Linda said yes.
When the special day came in 1995, Tommy proposed with a plastic ring he had won in a vending machine. There was no hesitation when Maryanne said yes.
Linda told The Sun: “When I sent out the invitations people said it wouldn’t last and asked me what I’d do if it didn’t.
“But we need to treat Tommy and Maryanne like adults. Everyone should be able to marry the love of their lives.”
However, Linda knew that her daughter had dreamt of a big white wedding since being a little girl and wanted nothing more than for her to have this beautiful day.
With 250 guests, the day was absolutely magical for everyone involved.
Maryanne said: “We got married on July 15. I had a white dress and I wore a crown like a princess.
“And Tommy was in a suit with a shirt and tie. My wedding day was the best day of my life. I love my husband. He is my best friend.”
Initially, the newlyweds lived with Linda until they got their own flat next door in 2002.
The couple, from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, enjoy spending their days going for romantic walks at the beach and they love to cook together.
Linda said: “They would talk all the time, from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep. I had to bang on the wall because they’d be in hysterics.
“They also cooked with me every night and I taught them the basics of how to make fresh dinners.
“These two are marvellous in the kitchen. That’s where Tommy gets into his element.”
Whilst Tommy has a passion for cooking, Maryanne is very much house proud and admits that she “cleans every day”.
Their home is filled with memorabilia and they are huge fans of Elvis Presley. Every single day, Tommy makes sure to sing Maryanne ‘Love Me Tender’ at least once.
For their 20th anniversary, the couple decided to celebrate by renewing their wedding vows. Every year the day approaches, they always make sure to do something important to mark it.
Unfortunately, Tommy, now 62, has been diagnosed with dementia and this means he is struggling with everyday tasks such as washing his hair.
Heartbreakingly, he has begun to forget his wife of almost 25 years. Despite this, Maryanne has stuck beside his side and continues to worship him like the day they first met.
As Tommy’s condition continues to decline, all of the family have stepped in to make sure they can prevent the couple from having to separate, so Tommy doesn’t need to move into residential care again.
Maryanne, 48, is now one of her husband’s main carers along with the help of her sister, Lindi Newton, 32, and her mum Linda.
Linda said: “The fact that they’re still living independently and are doing great together, it’s amazing.
“These last few years have been substantially harder and Maryanne does get upset – Maryanne had dreamt of a big white wedding since she was a little girl, and their relationship is one that has always been full of love.”
Currently, Tommy is suffering from problems in his sleep and is often experiencing mood swings, especially when his memory is troubling him.
Lindi, Maryanne’s sister, commented: “He’s forgotten who Maryanne is a handful of times. He pushes her away and says, ‘I don’t know who you are’ and ‘I don’t love you’.
“Maryanne takes that to heart and is hysterical. She calls me and I go across the road to calm them down. It’s scary for Tommy too but then he forgets anything has happened.
“We tell her Tommy forgets things because his brain’s a bit poorly and he’s getting older.
“But we take each day as it comes because we’ve been told if Tommy needs residential care, Maryanne wouldn’t be able to go with him. We’d do whatever we could to stop it happening.”
Maryanne has remained devoted to her beloved husband. She always makes sure to tell him how much she loves him, saying it at least “three times a day”.
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