A Love Story that Defied Expectations

People often called them “disgusting” – yet this couple celebrated their 25rd anniversary before tragedy struck

When Maryanne and Tommy Pilling first fell in love, many doubted their relationship would last. But in July 1995, this remarkable couple, both with Down syndrome, defied all expectations and tied the knot. Despite facing prejudice and hurdles, Maryanne and Tommy’s love story continues to inspire thousands worldwide.

It has been 27 years since Maryanne and Tommy made history as the first-ever couple with Down syndrome to get married. But their journey was not without its challenges. Born and raised in Essex, England, they experienced the cruelty of prejudice from uninformed individuals who could not see past their condition.

Maryanne and Tommy first met at a training center for people with learning difficulties. Their eyes locked while working in the kitchen, and it was love at first sight. The couple started dating and discovered they shared a deep connection.

Maryanne, born on May 17, 1971, was fortunate to be surrounded by unconditional love from her mother and sister. Unfortunately, her father rejected her after she was born. Tommy, born on March 21, 1958, grew up in a care home in Essex after becoming an orphan at the age of 12.

Despite the significant age difference, with Tommy being 32 and Maryanne being 19 when they met, their love knew no boundaries. Maryanne’s mother, Linda, witnessed her daughter’s joy after their first encounter and vividly recalls the moment:

“The day Maryanne met Tommy, she came home with the biggest smile on her face. She couldn’t stop talking about him and asked if he could come for dinner.”

Tommy and Maryanne were a perfect match. They shared a love for cooking, watching movies, and dining out. After 18 months of dating, Tommy made up his mind to marry Maryanne. But he wouldn’t proceed until her mother gave her approval.

Although hesitant at first due to the negative reactions from their community, Maryanne’s family ultimately gave their blessings, recognizing that the couple’s love was pure and magical. They could not be swayed by the doubts of others.

On July 15, 1995, Maryanne and Tommy exchanged vows in a beautiful church ceremony in Essex, surrounded by 250 guests. Maryanne’s mother even accompanied Tommy to choose the perfect ring.

“Maryanne looked like a princess in her beautiful white dress, tiara, and long veil. Tommy looked very dapper in his made-to-measure suit,” Maryanne’s sister, Linda Newman, wrote.

The couple initially lived with Maryanne’s sister for seven years before moving into their own home next door. This arrangement allowed them to maintain their independence and privacy while knowing their loved ones were nearby.

Unfortunately, Maryanne and Tommy faced prejudice throughout their marriage, often stemming from people’s ignorance about Down syndrome and learning difficulties. But Linda, Maryanne’s sister, proudly shared how their love turned heads for all the right reasons:

“When they walk down the street holding hands, they make a statement, but in a good way… Some people stare—they assume people with Down Syndrome and learning difficulties can’t get married.”

Maryanne and Tommy’s love story gained international attention, inspiring countless individuals who saw their relationship as a shining example of love without boundaries. Their sister, Linda, created a Facebook page where fans could follow their daily lives, and the couple received an outpouring of support and admiration.

Throughout their married life, Maryanne and Tommy enjoyed typical activities together, like going to the movies, golfing, spending time with family, and traveling. Their love knew no limits.

Tragically, Maryanne and Tommy’s love story took an unforeseen turn when Tommy was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. Dementia poses immense challenges, affecting memory, communication, focus, reasoning, and visual perception. This diagnosis proved to be their most brutal battle yet.

Lindi Newman, Maryanne’s sister, described the heartbreaking moments when Tommy forgot who Maryanne was, pushing her away and uttering, “I don’t know who you are” and “I don’t love you.” These painful episodes deeply affected Maryanne, leaving her crushed and inconsolable. Lindi would rush over to comfort them, but Tommy’s memory would often erase the incident.

At the end of 2019, Tommy tragically passed away due to complications from COVID-19. He was 62 years old. Condolences flooded the couple’s Facebook page, and Linda, in a heartfelt tribute, described Tommy as “the best uncle my children could ever ask for.”

Maryanne was left devastated by the loss of her beloved husband. The outpouring of support from people around the world is a testament to the impact this remarkable couple had on so many lives.

Maryanne and Tommy’s love transcended expectations and proved that people with Down syndrome are capable of experiencing deep affection and pure love. They deserve respect, understanding, and a life free from prejudice.

Maryanne will always carry fond memories of her time with Tommy, and though she may feel lost without him, she is surrounded by a strong support system. Tommy’s spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace.