When Maryanne and Tommy Pilling fell in love, some people told them it wouldn’t last.
But in July 1995, the devoted couple with Down syndrome took the revolutionary step of getting married.
Despite all the enemies and obstacles they faced, Maryanne and Tommy’s love story continues to surprise and inspire thousands around the world.
It has been 27 years since Maryanne and Tommy Pilling made world history by becoming the first couple with Down syndrome to marry.
But it wasn’t always easy for these two lovebirds. Maryanne and Tommy, both from Essex, England, faced countless challenges. They experienced the cruelty of the prejudices of intolerant people due to their condition.
The couple met at a training center for people with learning difficulties. They saw each other for the first time while working in the kitchen: it was love at first sight, and the two started dating.
Maryanne was born on May 17, 1971. Fortunately, she was raised by people who loved her unconditionally. Both Maryanne’s mother and sister were important pillars for her throughout the years. But unfortunately, her father rejected her after she was born.
Tommy came into the world on March 21, 1958, a date now known as World Down Syndrome Day. Tommy had a difficult childhood and was orphaned at the age of 12. He grew up in a nursing home in Essex.
When Tommy met Maryanne, he was 32 years old. Maryanne was only 19, but the age difference was not a barrier. Maryanne’s mom, Linda, recalled her daughter’s reaction after her first encounter.
“The day Maryanne met Tommy, she came home with the biggest smile on her face,” she told the Daily Mail and continued:
“She couldn’t stop talking about him and asked if she could come over for dinner.
Tommy and Maryanne were a match made in heaven. They were both brave souls who shared many interests. They loved to cook, watch movies, and dine in restaurants.
Tommy was sure that Maryanne was the one for him, and 18 months after they started dating, he firmly decided that he wanted to make Maryanne his wife. But he wouldn’t do it until his mother agreed.
Maryanne’s mother and the rest of her family were hesitant, in part because of all the criticism and negative reactions from people in her local community. But in the end, they finally gave the couple their blessings, calling the couple’s relationship “magical” and “pure.”
Some people still thought that the idea was absurd and that the union would not last, but nothing could stop the love that these two had for each other.
On July 15, 1995, Tommy and Maryanne were married in front of 250 guests in a beautiful church in Essex. Maryanne’s mother had accompanied Tommy ring shopping to make sure everything was perfect.
“Maryanne looked like a princess in her beautiful white dress, tiara and long veil. Tommy looked very dapper in his tailored suit,” wrote Maryanne’s sister, Linda Newman.
In front of her family and friends, Maryanne and Tommy made their vows and finally had the wedding of their dreams.
“My wedding was the best day of my life,” says Maryanne. “I was surprised when Tommy proposed to me, but I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes.”
The couple lived together with Maryanne’s sister, Linda, for the first seven years of their married life. After that, they moved into the house next door.
“They get their independence, they get their private time, which I think is very important for everyone. It works great, I’m there if you need me,” Linda told the Daily Mail in 2018.
Fortunately, the gorgeous couple proved all the doubters wrong: Linda says they’ve faced a lot of prejudice for being together, mainly due to people’s ignorance about Down syndrome.
“When they walk down the street holding hands, they make a statement, but in a good way… Some people stare, assume people with Down syndrome and learning disabilities can’t get married,” Linda told People in 2017. .
Over the years, the couple gained a lot of attention and support from people all over the world. Many admired their relationship and saw it as a perfect example of boundless love.
“We get so many lovely messages from people who are inspired by their story,” Linda said, continuing, “People concerned about their own children or grandchildren with Down syndrome draw hope from Maryanne and Tommy’s story.”
Maryanne’s sister also created a Facebook page, which helped the couple gain a large following on social media. Through the fan page, fans could see photos and read updates on Maryanne and Tommy’s daily lives.
Maryanne and Tommy loved doing things together and lived like most married couples. They went to the movies, played golf, spent time with their families, and traveled.
Unfortunately, the couple would face their most brutal battle when Tommy received a devastating diagnosis. In 2014, doctors discovered that Tommy had dementia.
If he has ever seen a loved one struggling with dementia, he will know how horrible and unforgiving it can be.
The condition affects a number of functions, including memory, communication, concentration, reasoning and visual perception, leaving patients a shell of their former selves and making it extremely difficult for family and friends to connect with they.
Maryanne’s sister, Lindi Newman, spoke to Metro in 2019, saying:
“She has forgotten who Maryanne is a handful of times. It always happens very late at night. He pushes her away and says, ‘I don’t know who you are’ and ‘I don’t love you.’ Maryanne takes it seriously and is absolutely devastated and hysterical.”
“She calls me and I put my shoes on and walk across the street to try to calm them down. She scares Tommy too, but then she forgets that she happened to something.”
death of tommy pilling
In late 2019, Tommy tested positive for COVID-19 when he was admitted to the hospital with suspected pneumonia.
It turned out to be a serious case, and two weeks after contracting the virus, Tommy passed away. He was 62 years old.
Following the tragic news, condolences flooded the couple’s Facebook page. Linda wrote some beautiful and heartbreaking words, describing Tommy as “the best uncle my kids could ask for.”
“I will cherish the thousands of memories I have with him. Thank you for being you and making the world a better place, touching the lives of millions just for being you. Marriage made you my brother-in-law, love made you my brother,” Linda wrote.