Maine couple living with disabilities create real-life fairytale romance

Posted Jan. 15, 2014, at 11:10 a.m.

Most girls only dream of that classic fairy tale. The one where the princess finds her Prince Charming and they live happily ever after. But for Bryce Kennedy and Justine Dyer, the fairy tale is reality — with one exception not typically included in big-screen romance stories.

Dyer and Kennedy both were born with disabilities, although they don’t let that stop them.

Once Kennedy’s persistence finally paid off — Dyer turned him down twice before agreeing to a date — they became inseparable.

“The first time she said no,” said Kennedy, the son of former University of Maine President Robert Kennedy. “The second time she said she’d think about it, and the third time, well, the third time’s the charm.”

Their first date was in 2005 when Kennedy took Dyer to her junior prom. Fast-forward eight years, and Kennedy, now 29, and Dyer, 26, are engaged. Kennedy proposed in May at Boston Public Gardens, surrounded by a bed of multicolored tulips. The couple has set a wedding date of August 2014 in Dyer’s hometown of Surry.

“Justine is someone who I have always trusted,” said Kennedy. “There is no other woman who is quite like Justine Dyer … she is kind, sweet, beautiful and sophisticated. She has a heart of gold and I am really glad we found each other.”

Their love for each other is indescribable. It is pure, unconditional and infectious.

“Bryce is a great guy,” Dyer said. “He is the nicest guy. He’ s cute, kind, honest and supports me.”

Their continuous guidance and care for each other is remarkable, especially since they both need an extra hand every now and then with daily tasks.

Dyer has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder in which an individual is born with a full or partial copy of chromosome 21, altering his or her development process.

Kennedy’s condition is more difficult to identify, and doctors never have been unable to provide a specific diagnosis, although it has impaired physical, learning, language and behavioral aspects.

Together, they have traveled to Washington, D.C., several times to attend the National Down Syndrome Congress annual convention, which thousands of people from all over the world attend.

“I’ve learned quite a lot about what Down syndrome is at the convention, which helps me relate and understand Justine … I love Justine for who she is,” Kennedy said.

Their personal fairy tale is one of unconditional love, built upon reality, barriers and passion for each other and life.

“I love this boy a whole lot,” Dyer said. “We are counting down the months until we get married.”

About 2½ years ago, Kennedy moved in with Dyer to a home they share with one other roommate and the couple’s caretaker.

“I moved in because I felt like it was right,” Kennedy said. “I felt like it was time for me to move in with Justine, Jenny [their roommate] and Lynn [their caretaker]. I feel very happy to have my friends and family surrounding me.”

“I loved that Bryce moved in,” Dyer said.

They frequently help each other with the usual household chores such as laundry, cleaning and cooking dinner. Even while doing the most mundane of chores, their love for each other is undeniable. Kennedy often looks at Dyer and tells her how beautiful she is, and Dyer returns the affection with a look that exudes utter happiness. While they cook dinner they can be found dancing together in the kitchen, which is something they love to do.

Their favorite slow song, which Kennedy dedicated to his fiancee as their song, is the “Titanic” theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion.

“Bryce picked it because it’s a love song,” Dyer said.

“I wanted a song that captivated us, the two of us.” Kennedy said. “I really, really wanted a song like [‘My Heart Will Go On’] because we are going to be a married couple and this song captures us and shows us as a dancing couple.”

When they are not at home Dyer works as a teacher’s aide at Green House Nursery School in Milford. Kennedy works at Burger King in Old Town and Hero’s Sport Grill in Bangor and volunteers several days a week at a nursery.

In their free time they both love to work out and several times a week they can be found at the YMCA in Old Town pushing each other to work hard. Their workouts help prepare them for the Special Olympics. They participate in the downhill skiing and swimming events and are each other’s No. 1 fan.

The way they look at each other can instantly turn even the most heartless person into mush and on their wedding day there probably will not be a dry eye in the room.

“I can’t wait to marry Justine,” Kennedy said. “I can’t wait to be a married couple. God, I’m really, really happy that I met here. I’m grateful for that. I’m really grateful for that.”

“He’s handsome, a good guy and funny,” Dyer said. “I can’t wait. I am really, really excited.”