Tommy Pillings, who was first thrust into the spotlight after he and his wife, Maryanne, became one of the first couples with Down syndrome to marry in the country — has died.
In July of 1995, both Pilling and Maryanne exchanged vows at a church in Essex after meeting two years prior at a training center for people with learning difficulties.
And while the two were under constant criticism from those who believed their marriage would not last due to their disabilities, they remained together until Jan 1., when Pilling passed from coronavirus-related pneumonia.
He and Maryanne had celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in July.
Pilling, 62, had been in isolation during the pandemic but contracted the virus during a recent hospital visit.
“Our beautiful Tommy peacefully passed… after a battle with covid pneumonia,” Pilling’s sister-in-law, Lindi Newman, wrote on the couple’s Facebook page on Monday.
“Thank you for showing me what unconditional love was, I will remember your beautiful ways forever, your pure heart, your love of music, Elvis, your dancing. Your positive attitude and how you appreciated the small things. Thank you for making Maryanne so happy.”
Maryanne called her wedding day “the best day” of her life, and Pillings her “best friend,” in a 2017 interview.
Their marriage was a landmark one as the two are the very first couples with Down Syndrome to marry in the country.
“Thank you for being you and making the world a better place, touching the lives of millions just by being you,” Newman wrote on Facebook of her brother-in-law. “Marriage made you my brother in law, love made you my brother.”
Previously, Newman shared how one of Pilling and Maryanne’s marriage cornerstones of their relationship, was trust in one another.
“They love one another dearly, respect one another and are completely honest,” she said.
Pilling’s mother-in-law, Linda Martin, shared how the loss of her daughter’s husband “has left a vast hole in our lives that no one will ever fill.”
“I have never regretted a single moment of the 30 years he was in my life and care, [h]e brought so much joy just by being him, I will always be thankful for the laughter and fun he brought to our lives,” she wrote. “Fly high Tommy we will love you forever.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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