Memory of Paula Daniel honored through story of friendship and art

On Monday, Oct.7, Cathy Meadows, co-owner of the retiring Flat Gap-based crafting company Prim & Proper, is honoring the memory of her recently deceased apprentice-turned-coworker and friend, Paula Daniel.

Sitting in a large crafting room within her home, Meadows began to unravel a story of friendship, creativity and love.

She believed it was best to start from the beginning.

Around the time of the flash flood that ravaged the Flat Gap area of Johnson County in 2014, “Paula and Matthew (Paula’s husband) had moved into the home basically right out my back door,” said Meadows.

“Paula started coming over just to see if I needed anything. Of course, I never really did. I’m a really closed-off person,” she said. “I don’t really let people into my circle. As I had told Paula a thousand times, the less people that you love, the less you get hurt.”

However, Daniel was persistent in making friends with her new, introverted neighbor.

“By September, every morning she would just show up, knock on the door and say, ‘Let’s have a cup of coffee to start our day.’ It aggravated me at first,” she joked, “but I didn’t want to be impolite, so I would.”

The two quickly became friends.

“Paula was infectious,” said Meadows. “I mean she was just always so happy and I’m always so hateful. She’d laugh at me and I’d laugh at her.”

Eventually Daniel got to see firsthand the crafts that Meadows so passionately made and sold through her personal business, Prim & Proper. After showing Daniel one particular craft she had been working on, Daniel complimented Meadows saying “I couldn’t do that.”

“Of course, if you know me,” said Meadows, “I saw that as a challenge and I took it.”

Meadows then taught Paula how to paint various wooden, primitive-inspired home décor crafts.

“One thing led to another and I took her in as a partner in Prim & Proper,” Meadows said. “She loved it and she was very good at it.”

After about a year of creating crafts out of pallet wood and similar materials, Meadows suggested that Daniel make a wreath to add to a particular piece of décor. After hours of watching YouTube tutorials and successfully creating her first wreath, Daniel asked for the opportunity to branch out and make some more. At this point, the business model of Prim & Proper shifted from solely selling wooden pallet and primitive-type décor, adding wreaths to the company’s repertoire.

“I told her I’ll do the wood stuff and you just need to do Paula’s thing. The wreathing thing was all on her,” said Meadows. “She’d put her on spin on everything. It would be something that you or I would copy exactly and she would say, ‘No I can do this better,’ and she would put her own spin on it and it would be much prettier.

“It wasn’t just a creative outlet, it was just her outlet period. This was her release. This was her way of coping. She loved when people would love her stuff. She would be so grateful. Perhaps the greatest thing about Paula’s wreaths was the confidence she was gaining with each one she made.”

Tragically, Daniel passed away on Sept. 11 at the age of 49 at her residence. According to Meadows, at the time of her passing Daniel had made, “hundreds of wreaths, from traditional to astonishing and everywhere in between.”

Although her legacy will carry on through her craft, Daniel will be remembered most for her spirit.

“Paula had so many good qualities that were just natural to her,” said Meadows. “They were the same sort of qualities that I have to work hard to achieve. Her kindness  was apparent. Her loving attitude was legendary. She made you happy to be around her. She always had a smile for you, even when she didn’t feel like smiling. Her love for her family and friends — and yes, even her crotchety old neighbor — was always on display for all to see. She was a loving, giving, magnanimous person. She took everything to heart and found all the good qualities in people. Paula was like a daughter to me. She was all about her family and loved her kids, probably even too much.”

Sitting in a room full of beautiful faux-flowers, greenery and crafts that will remain unfinished, Meadows concluded, “I miss her now and always will. She’s left a big hole that nothing can fill. Yes, it’s my hope and prayer that I will see her again, just as I hope those that have gone before me opened their hearts to her for the love she let me share.”

“The desire to continue Prim & Proper is gone, but the memories Paula and I shared will last forever.”

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