Love is in the air for a couple with learning disabilities who have found their happily ever after – in a charity shop of all places.
Holly Von-Hessler, 28, and Geoffrey Hyde, 26, are now the epitome of happiness after suddenly taking the plunge to move in together in lockdown – but there was a time they thought they might never find love.
The pair knew each other from school but it wasn’t until around three years ago, when Holly was working voluntarily at the now closed RSPCA charity shop in St Austell, that Geoffrey walked in and sparked up a romance.
Now the pair, who live in Penwithick, are set to be married after Geoffrey proposed to Holly over dinner at their favourite restaurant two years ago.
Then in March, thanks to the help of Shared Lives, they were supported to be able to live under one roof because they couldn’t bear the thought of being apart for any amount of time in a lockdown.
Geoffrey, who has a learning disability, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), said it was love at first sight for him when he spotted “beautiful” Holly in the charity shop where they met once again.
The pair had known each other at school and caught a glimpse of each other at a disco not long before but this was the moment they “clicked”.
“I thought she was beautiful,” he says in the video looking at Holly. “That is one way I can definitely describe seeing her for the first time in quite a while from when we first met at school and I thought it would be a nice idea to invite her for a coffee at my mum’s and from then on we just clicked”.
Holly, who also has a learning disability and autism, said of Geoffrey: “He was wonderful, always very friendly when I spoke to him and always asking how I was.”
“When I left school I had several other boyfriends but they didn’t work out,” said Holly. “Geoffrey happened to be at a Shared Lives disco where we met again and I had a crush on him and funnily enough later I was working in a charity shop and we met again.”
After a year-and-a-half of courting Geoffrey got down on one knee in their favourite restaurant and asked Holly to marry him.
“It was a nice shock,” said Holly. “And the ring he gave me was absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Geoffrey said: “The particular stone of the ring was her birthstone so that was very sentimental as well.”
Despite being the picture of happiness now, there was a time when they each thought they might never find happiness because of their complex needs.
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“We feel really lucky because before I met Geoffy I didn’t think there was going to be anyone else,” says Holly. “I never thought me and Geoffy would last.”
“But I’m glad we did,” added Geoffrey.
Holly and Geoffrey spent the first few years of their relationship living in separate Shared Lives facilities. This year they were able to move into the same facility with their carers who are transforming downstairs into their own little bedsit setup that will give them more independence.
Geoffrey says the couple might not be very good at reading and writing but they are still living life to the fullest, and their grins say it all.
The pair were also not sure if they would ever be able to live this independently and say the prospect of the future makes them “feel really excited.”
“I feel really excited,” said Holly. “It’s more grown up for us and independent and we will be able to do more things.”
“We are so happy for Holly and Geoffrey,” said Janice Brown, a team leader at Shared Lives.
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“Shared Lives is all about people getting the right support so they can live their lives, their way and this is a perfect example as they want to be together.
“They are truly smitten with each other and it’s fantastic that Marlene and John Moore, Holly’s SLSW, carers worked with Geoffrey’s former SLSW carer to make this all happen and we could work behind the scenes to make the idea a reality.
“This year has been challenging for us all, but this is something really positive to come out of the pandemic for the couple.”
Marleen, their Shared Lives carer, added: “It is lovely for them. We felt it really wouldn’t be good for them to be apart for any length of time when we heard news of the lockdown for their mental well-being.
“It it was always on the cards that they were going to move in together here but it wasn’t going to be for a couple years but this made it all the more urgent.”
You can send Holly and Geoffrey your well-wishes in the comments below.