Connecticut couple gets national recognition for wedding again after Alzheimer's diagnosis

Peter had already been married to Lisa for over a decade. But he forgot, so he proposed again.

Photo of Andrew DaRosa

After watching TV one night, 56-year-old Peter Marshall had an idea.

“He pointed at the TV and said ‘let’s do it.’ I said ‘do what, what are you talking about?,’” said Lisa Marshall, Peter’s wife. “He said ‘that.’ I looked at the TV and it was the couple getting married and I said ‘do you want to get married?’ He said ‘yeah.’ He had this big grin on his face. I said ‘are you asking me to marry you?’ He nodded and he grinned and said ‘yes.’ He said ‘it’s going to be a lot of work.’”

“The first time he asked me to marry him was a surprise and the second time he asked me to marry him was a surprise,” Lisa, 54, said. “When the person you love so deeply asks you twice and chooses you twice, it is remarkable.”

Peter was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 and has been experiencing memory loss in recent years. After more than a decade of marriage, he had forgotten that he was already married. According to John Hopkins medicine, early onset Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The disease mostly affects individuals between their 30s and 60s and comprises roughly 10 percent of all Alzheimer’s-related cases.

The Andover, Conn. couple remarried in a ceremony in Holyoke, Mass. in April. The wedding was catered free-of-charge as Lisa’s daughter, Sarah Brehant, and others pitched in to make the wedding just as special as the first. 

The event was covered by national outlets the Washington Post, CNN and People.

Lisa retired in January 2020 to take care of Peter, who has needed constant supervision. She compared taking care of Peter to watching out for a toddler. As with individuals who suffer from Alzheimer's-related diseases, Peter has been experiencing significant mood swings and memory loss, which have gotten more severe recently.

“It’s almost like you have to take the temperature of the mood all the time because the mood swings are so severe,” Lisa said. “We had friends over the other night. We have been friends for years and we were all laughing. Peter [didn’t] understand what was happening and felt excluded...He thinks we’re laughing at him.”

“You really have to work to calm him down when that happens,” Lisa added. 

“We were already best friends”

To Lisa, Peter was initially just a neighbor of hers in Harrisburg, Pa. Peter and his ex-wife would frequently spend time with Lisa and her then husband, sometimes going on vacation together.

 “We were already best friends,” Lisa said. 

The two families raised their kids with one another and grew up being close friends.

When Peter, a Connecticut native, moved back to the state for a job offer, Lisa and her family were left without their good friend.

Lisa and Peter Marshall on their wedding day on April 26, 2021.

Lisa and Peter Marshall on their wedding day on April 26, 2021.

Dan Brehant Photography

After some time apart, the two reconnected after both consoling each other through their separate divorces. After a trip by Peter back down to Pennsylvania to visit Lisa, they knew they had something special.

Peter and Lisa married in 2009 alongside their five children and eventually the couple settled down in Andover, Conn. 

Roughly three years after getting married, Lisa began to notice Peter struggling with memory issues. 

“It was easy to ignore. As we get older, we start forgetting things and our memory isn’t as good as it once was. I chalked it up to that,” Lisa said. “I secretly knew something was wrong.”

In the years that followed, Peter began to forget basic words, which raised suspicion in Lisa that something more significant could be occurring with her husband.

“He would describe words instead of using them,” Lisa said. “We were talking about going on a trip and he couldn't come up with the word ‘airplane.’ Common words were getting lost.”

In 2017, Lisa took him to his primary care physician to examine the source behind Peter’s memory issues. One year and two neurologists later, Peter was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Lisa and Peter Marshall on their wedding day on April 26, 2021.

Lisa and Peter Marshall on their wedding day on April 26, 2021.

Dan Brehant Photography

Keeping the faith

To help cope with her situation, Lisa started the Oh Hello Alzheimers blog to write down her thoughts and share her experiences with others so that they might find solace in her words. 

“I think I started it as a cry for help. I didn’t expect it to snowball into what it is today,” Lisa said. “Writing is a great opportunity to kind of get my feelings out and get rid of the frustration that I may feel.”

Lisa said she has recently received a lot of correspondence from people online thanking her for sharing her experience with Peter.

For individuals who are caring for loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s-related diseases, Lisa said that it is vital to “keep the faith.” For caregivers, Lisa stressed the importance of “taking care of themselves” and to “delegate whatever you can."

“Go sit on the front porch and go hold hands instead because the dog hair will be there later but the hand that you're holding may not,” Lisa said. 

The Alzheimer's Association offers 24-hour support for people living with dementia, their caregivers and family members. The service can be reached by phone at 800-272-3900.