Much-loved husband from UK’s first couple with Down’s Syndrome to get married dies aged 62 just two weeks after catching Covid – leaving his wife, 49, ‘completely lost’ without him
- Tommy Pilling, 62, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, died from Covid, January 1
- Tommy and wife Maryanne Pilling, 48, married in 1995 and were inseparable
- They made history by being the UK’s first couple with Down’s Syndrome to marry
A man who made history with his wife as the UK’s first couple with Down’s Syndrome to marry has died from Covid-19 – just two weeks after contracting the virus.
Tommy Pilling, 62, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, lost his battle to coronavirus on January 1, leaving behind his doting wife Maryanne, 49, who says she is ‘completely lost’ without her love.
The couple had been shielding for ten months when Tommy, who was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, was taken to hospital for a chest infection on December 10.
There he contracted coronavirus which led to pneumonia. Tommy passed away at 1.40am on New Year’s Day, just two weeks after testing positive on December 16.
Tommy Pilling, 62, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, lost his battle to coronavirus on January 1, leaving behind his doting wife Maryanne, 49 (pictured together when they were young)
His devastated sister-in-law, Lindi Newman, 33, has spoken today to pay her respects to the ‘one of a kind’ Tommy.
Lindi said: ‘We are all complete and utter shock. Tommy will stay in my heart forever.
‘I am so thankful my mum Linda Martin, 70, unofficially adopted him 30 years ago and made him apart of our family.
‘Maryanne and Tommy had never been apart for more than a few hours during all those years. She doesn’t remember a life before Tommy.
The couple had been shielding for ten months. Here they are pictured on holiday together
The couple sharing a kiss. Tommy popped the question with a toy ring from a vending machine after 18-months of dating, the pair met in 1990
‘The day she met him, she had the biggest smile on her face and she couldn’t stop talking about him.
‘She is absolutely devastated and in shock. One minute, she is hysterical and the next she is fine, then she cries again. It is so hard for all of us.’
Sadly the couple were separated for the very first time since they met when Tommy was hospitalised on December 10.
In July 2018, Tommy dissolved into tears while discussing his love for his wife on ITV’s This Morning, as they spoke to Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.
The last photo the love-struck had together before he passed away
Maryanne’s mother Linda was also on the show, saying the couple’s relationship was ‘magical’, and told how she was criticised for letting her daughter get married.
The Pillings, Britain’s first Down’s syndrome married couple, first met at a day centre in Southend in 1990 and were instantly besotted with each other, dating for about 18 months before he proposed.
He popped the question with a toy ring from a vending machine, before the couple married in front of 250 guests at St Mary’s Church in Shoeburyness in 1995.
For their first seven years of their marriage the couple lived with Maryanne’s mother, Linda, but then moved out to live on their own next door.
Linda said: ‘It is so cruel that he caught the virus in the hospital. He had no choice but to go in for treatment.
Maryanne and Tommy on their wedding day, in front of 250 guests at St Mary’s Church in Shoeburyness in 1995
Maryanne and Tommy lived independently since tying the knot in 1995
The happy couple on the day of their wedding. The pair had not been apart for more than 24 hours in the years they were married until Tommy was hospitalized
‘I will cherish thousands of memories I have with Tommy, from cinema trips to zoo visits. He would always thank me for taking them out for the day and compliment me – even when I looked horrendous.
‘He was a true gentleman. He told Maryanne and I that he loved us daily. Marriage made him my brother-in-law but love made him my brother.’
Maryanne and Tommy lived independently since tying the knot in 1995.
Tommy was diagnosed with coronavirus on December 16. The family praise the NHS staff who nursed Tommy
But she had moved next door with her mother for daily support whilst Tommy, who also had dementia, was in hospital.
He spent one month in three different hospitals – Basildon hospital, Southend and Thurrock community hospital.
He was diagnosed with coronavirus on December 16. The family praise the NHS staff who nursed Tommy.
Linda said: ‘Tommy has left a vast hole in our lives that nobody will ever fill.
‘I considered him as my son and I’ve never regretted a single moment of the three decades he was in my care.
The couple were believed to be the longest married couple with Down’s Syndrome – married 25 years
‘He brought us all so much love and job. I will always be thankful for the laughter and fun he brought to our lives.
‘I cannot thank the staff enough, their care and compassion was outstanding – especially during these dreadful times.
‘They were all rushed off their feet but still made time to inform me daily regarding his condition. They also commented on what a beautiful person he was.
‘He was last at Basildon hospital with macmillan nurses by his side – they were also amazing.’
The family invite all to light a candle in his honour tonight [January 4] at 7pm and to post a photo on their Facebook page. The couple can be found on social media by searching @maryanneandtom.
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