Heather Paul: Character of Whistler
Heather is the biggest instigator for the performing arts in Whistler and has crafted a thriving theater culture around it through her hard work and by pursuing her passion. She was also a very deserving recipient of the Whistler Citizen of the Year Award in 2017. It’s not just her accomplishments that make Heather Paul a true Characters of Whistler, it’s also her approach to life, work, play, family and community that somehow she seems to gracefully intertwine them in a beautiful way that encourages her own personal growth and growth for all who surround her.
HEATHER PAUL’S WHISTLER LOVE STORY
Undoubtedly curious about this incredible human we asked Heather Paul about how it all began. What sealed the deal for her to fall in love with Whistler because that is why we’re lucky enough to have her after all.
“A handful of moments come to mind during those early years, snow, summer, housing, friends, and community. Winter of 98 was a bumper crop of powder, so much so that the Whistler Gondola was shut down for a day to dig it out of the giant fortnight of dumping that had consumed the mountains. Snowmaggedon convinced me to ride out another winter, making me the cliche of the old Whistler legend, “you come for the winter, you stay for the summer”. That summer I found Whistler’s biggest secret stash: Five lakes, quiet beaches, and chill bike parks.”
“Another secret ingredient is housing and friends. I was also lucky in roommate love. I started my tenure in Whistler by living in a laundry room. After graduating to a bunk room with 2 other strangers, I was so fortunate to find a secure and solid house to live in – a dream home with roommates who continue to be my best friends today. Where you live is the beginning of your Whistler community, and I found the unicorn of homes. Five bedroom penthouse in Blueberry hill. Five people with their own rooms, skylights, balconies and mountain views. It was a housing crisis in 1999 and I walked into a smorgasbord of decadence, and a handful of lifelong comrades in crime (Tommy’s on a Tuesday, Garfs on a Thursday, and Crab Shack on Sundays. Man, I do miss the Crab Shack).”
“Safe and secure housing was the beginning of my Whistler community. Spontaneous plans with the people you lived with. 40 pairs of shoes at the door. Always a friend around to confide in, lend a helping ear. Eat, laugh and play with. I imagined myself growing roots and living the full life for a few decades. Ten years later, just before the Olympics, I’m married to a wonderful man with a magical kid, and the local credit union bought us a WHA home (we have to pay him back with interest).”
HEATHER PAUL AND WHISTLER’S PERFORMING ARTS
With a living legacy of fostering the Whistler theatre culture and performing arts community, we asked Heather how it all began and her response was, of course, humble, witty and positive – just like her personality.
“Community is a triangle: Solid friendships, work-life, and hobbies I adore & volunteer for. When I was first dating Al, he nearly forced me to audition for a little community play put on by Whistler Players. I wanted to stay home and snuggle up to a movie with him, but he was having none of it (he likely knew that I needed an outlet for all my weirdness). The short story is, I landed the part, directed the play the following year, and in 2 years started a new theatre company (Short Skirt) with 2 other weird and wonderful women. I don’t think Short Skirt would have existed in another town.”
“The first play we did was funded by my credit card and a lot of generous support from local businesses. Only in a small town that thrives on community culture can you walk into businesses and say: “Hi! we want to put on a play where we (lovingly) make fun of Whistler, will you pay for the advertising?” Or give us free paint to make sets, Or free wood to build them, or free food for the cast… and they all said yes. Thanks to local businesses who saw early on the value in community art, an excellent bucket of material to pull from, thousands of volunteer hours, and some creative casting, Short Skirt Theatre shows have been sold out year over year, picked up by WSSF, and written up in national magazines. This all started with community generosity and some scripts riddled with our unique brand of mountain culture.”
In 2010 Heather’s husband Al was diagnosed with brain cancer, through strength, support and medical attention he entered remission for multiple years. Unfortunately, this pesky form of cancer has made a return recently. Al, Heather and their son Colt have become closer than ever as they tackle its reappearance with strength and unity. A few words from Heather…
“Al was (originally) diagnosed with brain cancer a few months after Colt was born. Brain surgery, radiation, chemo, community support, and the bombastic love for a newborn child cured him. He has persevered, tied to a brain injury that has taken so much away from who he once was. We choose to revel in his survival and cancer-free good fortune. It is a celebration born during some dark times without hope. But, when you embrace the fight with both arms, enthusiastically hustle the inhospitable cels, crack jokes at mortality, grind your teeth, stand your ground, and then -pow!- the odds are beaten in the hopeless time… a little magic sprouts up inside you. You know hope like you know your bones. Today, hope holds us like a nugget of gold. He had 8 years of clean scans, and now the nasty rat is back, inoperable, and infiltrating. With nightly doses of chemo, he hopes to hold back the inhospitable web. I am on edge, sick to my stomach, and believe hope helps with the nausea and love levels my balance.”
“Living in a small town is our family’s most fortunate asset. People have reached out offering help in any way they can. I don’t know what help we need. We need a cure for cancer. With spurts of energy, peloton grace, a community behind him, and fabulous form, we are going to help Al keep brain cancer at bay while building a lifetime of bucket-list moments and memory-making magic for our little Ponyboy, Colt.”
“How do you ask for help to make dreams come true? You can’t. So you ask people to imagine the future we see. Be kind to strangers: randomly and directly. Imagine clear skies and MRIs. Don’t forget that my husband is Hercules. There are two futures I dream of in parallel: calmly maneuvering the next months as a new normal for the mountain Pauls, and my Hunny Bunny driving me nuts for a long time to come. Those other moments, those other odds, those other losses of people with this infiltrating glioma, those other stories: they are not mine, they are not Al’s, they are not Colt’s, they are not ours. Right now, while I wait, not knowing what is going to happen, I get to decide the future that awaits us. In this timeline, he wins. He lives. He gets another hole in one and breaks a 72 on the golf course at the handsome age of 72. Go on Life.. make it happen. I will be here enthusiastically fighting, with hope as our dearest ally, snuggled up beside Al, making all our dreams come true.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR HEATHER PAUL?
Needless to say, Heather’s busy making memories and putting family time above all else and we support her in her priorities. She continues to produce and direct with Short Skirt and is currently cooking up something big – we can’t wait to see it! Heather recently went back to school for Strategic Planning at UBC and has taken on a new role with the RMOW, working with people who are making a difference in our community.
Heather’s love for Whistler is quite literally displayed on the stage and also appears in the behind the scenes actions through her impactful career, volunteer position, and general contagious Whistler stoke. It would be crazy not to consider this impressive lady a true Character of Whistler! At this time when a lovely human who has given our community so much is in need of some additional support, we ask that the community give back. Open arms for hugs, gifts, experiences, meals – let’s smother this essential Whistler family and show them just how much we love them back, it’s our turn.