Alyse Rogers and Brent Taylor smile during their wedding reception on Feb. 18, at the Machine Shop in Evanston. Although both of them have Down syndrome, they’ve taken the next step in their lives together and look forward to a happy marriage together. (HERALD PHOTO/Bethany Lange)
EVANSTON — People with disabilities are thought to be severely limited in how they can live, but that hasn’t stopped Alyse Rogers and Brent Taylor.
Alyse and Brent, both of whom have Down syndrome, have already moved to Cedar City to start their new life as man and wife. After knowing each other throughout childhood and being in love for many years, the couple has finally overcome some barriers and crossed the marital threshold, Alyse at the age of 27 and Brent at 34.
It hasn’t been easy, though. They had to struggle not only to realize and express their own feelings for each other but to convince their families that they could make marriage work.
They wed on Jan. 15, and have committed to a life together, through sickness, health and all the other challenges they will face.
“To my best friend, I’m happiest when I am with you,” Brent told Alyse. “You bring a sparkle to my eyes. I promise to always love you, laugh with you, cry with you. I promise to be honest with you and share my life with you! You are my angel and my true love.”
“I take this man to be my husband,” Alyse said in her vows. “He is my heartbeat and my life. He makes me feel loved and happy. I am full of love for him. I am the happiest wife ever! I love that we know each other real well. I will always love him.”
Brent lives in Cedar City, where he works at the animal hospital and at the Megaplex Theatres. Alyse has also acquired a job alongside Brent at the animal hospital.
Alyse grew up in Evanston, the daughter of Wanda Rogers, and has been an animated part of the community as a daughter, friend, coworker and much more. Her mother, Wanda Rogers, is the executive director of the Uinta County Business Leadership Network, so the two have been involved in the organization for years. When Mayor Kent Williams signed a proclamation declaring March Disability Awareness month, Wanda said it was the first year Alyse has not been there in more than 20 years.
Brent, who grew up in Cedar City, remembers seeing Alyse growing up and becoming aware of his feelings for her.
Their families are close, so Brent and Alyse got to see each other a lot growing up, especially over the summers.
“Sometimes at our family’s house, ... we sneaked over, kissing, making out,” Brent said as he and Alyse grinned at each other over the memories. “And then every time when we’d come here [to Evanston], we’d go down to the park down here and make out.”
The two also share interests. Brent and Alyse both like dancing and exercise. Alyse said she uses workout movies to stay in shape, and Brent likes bike riding. They sometimes go walking together, and they both enjoy racquetball as well. When they aren’t working out or working, they also like watching Disney movies, especially “The Little Mermaid.”
As Brent saw and fell in love with her, even as he dated other girls, he kept thinking and praying to see if she was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
“So now, I — apparently I came to be with the one,” Brent concluded.
“He wants me to be with him,” the happy new bride agreed.
Alyse added that she often struggles to know her feelings but knows she loves Brent, and they are just right for each other.
They are also planning to keep the spark of romance alive with weekly dates.
They don’t expect marriage to be effortless, though. One difference they will start working out is that Alyse is very independent, as she has lived on her own, but Brent has staff who come in and help him. Furthermore, Alyse has moved away from her family and from everything she has known. She said she is not too nervous about the change, though.
They also disagree on kids; Brent said he wants to be a dad and have a son in the future — but “No kids, honey,” was Alyse’s immediate rejoinder.
Their wedding and the change in their lives is changing the lives of those around them, too.
Cathy Wiggins, who used to work with Alyse at NGL Connections, came to the couple’s reception. She recounted how, whenever she came to work, Alyse would give her a big hug.
“I’m so happy for her,” Wiggins said with tears in her eyes. “She has the kindest heart.”
The change has been bittersweet for Wanda as well, as her youngest daughter is so far away. (Both Alyse and Brent are the youngest of six children.)
“I didn’t think it would be so difficult, but it is difficult,” she admitted. “... I always thought I would be a part of her life when she was married.”
Wanda said, even though Alyse is known by so many people, she was very seldom invited to things or given the opportunity to have a deep one-on-one friendship. Loneliness was always a challenge, even from childhood.
And marriage has always been one of Alyse’s dreams, so Wanda did everything she could to help Alyse reach that dream. The Rogers family took Alyse to Utah to meet other young men, but found barriers they didn’t expect — including other parents.
“Parents weren’t interested in letting their children have a deeper relationship,” Wanda said.
After awhile, she said they nearly gave up because it was so hard to meet anyone who would be willing to build that relationship.
“I guess throughout my years, one thing in working with parents, I find, is their dreams — they limit their dreams for their children with disabilities,” Wanda said. “... One thing I think is sometimes the barriers are put there by the family members more than the individuals...”
But in her work with the UCBLN, Wanda has tried to help others fight the fear of the unknown and allow children to realize their potential to live on their own, work, marry and achieve more than anyone thought possible.
And now that Alyse has moved away permanently to build her own life and family, Wanda is struggling to discover her new role and to give her daughter the space she needs as a married woman.
“She’s been my motivation ... and I’m lost. I’m trying to figure out what my role is now,” Wanda said.
“It is hard, but I’m thrilled to death for her, too,” she said.