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He Was Blind, She Was His Reader: The Sweet Love Story Behind the Viral Photo That Thrust a Detroit Couple Into the Spotlight

A then-and-now photo edit showing longtime partners Sylvia and John Scott has thrust the Detroit natives into the spotlight.

One black-and-white image shows the couple as they were in the early 1970s, with Sylvia rocking an Afro and John holding his white cane to assist him with his vision impairment. The other shows the pair as they are today, well into their golden years and still very much head over heels. They met in 1972 while he was in law school. She became his reader because he was blind.

The photos went viral on social media, and fans all over the world sent messages admiring their unconditional love. Atlanta Black Star found them and got the backstory behind the popular photos and the love affair that they say hasn’t been a bed of roses.

“In fact, we didn’t post the pictures that you probably saw from 1972, I didn’t post those,” explained Sylvia Scott, who has been married to her husband, John, for nearly 50 years.

“What happened was someone picked up the 1972 picture and connected it to the ‘Advanced Style’ book, and put the two together,” Sylvia tells Atlanta Black Star. “The picture of me and John in 1972 was in the Jet magazine article from when he was looking for a job, and Jet magazine picked it up.”

Sylvia and John Scott’s storybook romance is truly one for the ages. The couple has been going strong since 1972, when they met while John attended his first year of law school.

Sylvia, who is 82 years old, worked in medicine most of her life, and says she was dating a friend of John’s when they first encountered each other.

Seventy-three-year-old John began losing his sight when he was 9 years old — first in his left eye, then his right eye at age 13. After his vision was briefly restored, John says completely lost his ability to see during an operation when he was 19.

Because of his impairment, John needed help from a reader — a role Sylvia says she took on after ending her relationship with his friend.

Sylvia says John’s strong physique was what first caught her attention. “Girlfriend, he had the most gorgeous back and arms honey! Mm! Yes. It was his back,” Sylvia said. “He’s still got a good back!”

The couple says they first married in November 1972. “We’ve been fussing ever since,” Sylvia said.

Over the course of their decades-long partnership, Sylvia has assisted her largely independent husband through his impairment. However, the duo says they’ve helped each other grow.

“I never really considered walking an exercise, it was just getting from one place to the other,” Sylvia said. “He was a health nut about what he put into his body, and he helped me in that situation.”

John says while everyone has personal issues they grapple with, his devoted partner has been by his side as he dealt with his own. “That’s a lifelong journey trying to resolve issues,” John said. “She’s helped me a lot in terms of … I’m always beating on myself, I still deal with my lack of skills.”

Their union hasn’t come without challenges. Sylvia reveals they briefly went their separate ways. “Both of us had two issues which were enormous,” she shared. “John wanted children and I was an alcoholic, so we divorced and we dealt with those issues.”

They remarried about two years later, and since then their bond has remained solid.

“She’ll go down to Cleveland, you know, because our eldest daughter is down there, for two or three days, and that’s when I miss her,” John said. “It’s not the cooking, because I can get something to eat, it’s nothing to do with that, it’s … you feel an emptiness.”

The attorney shares advice with younger men looking to keep a happy, long marriage. “You don’t own her, she’s already been raised,” John said. “Whatever she does, you’ve got to learn to either accept it, talk about it, and maybe if you disagree with it, see if you can work this out.”

Making mistakes in a longterm relationship, Sylvia adds, simply comes with the territory.

“Because we are frail, because we’re not perfect, because we’re human,” she said. “But if you really care for somebody, you’re going to try to understand what’s happening with them, and that takes a long time, so that’s what you have to give yourself in a marriage, is time.”

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