Families’ Joy As Down’s Pair Wed
It was the day widow Dorothy Humphry never thought she would see, and she was trying very hard not to cry with pride and happiness. Her son Alan and his fiance Justine Brown had just got married to cheers and applause from 43 friends and family. As the newlyweds emerged from Ferndown Register Office, Alan, 41, looked dignified in his smart suit while Justine, 38, was simply radiant in her ivory satin dress with beaded bodice and jacket. The couple exchanged kisses in the sunshine and said: “We’re very happy.”
Accompanying them were their bridesmaids, the couple’s housemate Yasmin Fairfax and Alan’s sister Rebecca; matron of honour, Justine’s sister Joanne Strain; and pageboy Jack Strain, six.
The bride and groom, who both have Down’s Syndrome, first met more than 15 years ago when both were living at a home for people with learning disabilities in Poole Lane, Bournemouth.
“They have been in love for a long time,” said Dorothy, 66, of West Moors. “I don’t think he made any big announcements, but suddenly they were an item. We were surprised when they had a romance, got engaged and were able to live together. It’s something we would never have envisaged happening. When Alan was born, we were told he would be a vegetable for life and would only live 15 years.”
She recalled: “We took him back to hospital when he was six weeks old, as you did in those days. There were seven doctors there. They stripped him, examined him and gave him back to me. They said: ‘We think he’s a mongol. Take him away and look after him.’ He had a hole in the heart, but we decided against surgery. It was a very big operation and we thought we were going to outlive him. We thought it would be better if we lost him rather than he lost us. We anticipated he would always be at home and be dependent on us.”
Mrs Humphry admitted that life was difficult at times, but her husband, who died four years ago, had been very supportive: “When Alan was little, I had people cross the road so they wouldn’t have to walk past him. People have become a lot more sensible. It’s a lot more accepted these days – they’re not hidden away,” she said. “Justine and Alan fill their time, they’re happy and they’re healthy. That’s all you can ask. This is a day we could never have imagined – I wish his dad was still here to see it.”
Alan lived at home until he was 23. He and Justine now share a bungalow in Kinson with Yasmin and support staff. Both are involved with Bournemouth Forum, a group run for and by people with learning disabilities to help them be independent and campaign for their rights.