A Tribute to Reva Paul
Throughout the ages there have been remarkable women in the tea industry and my mother, confectionery artist Reva Paul was one of them.
Reva was born and raised in the South at a time when white gloves, hats, petticoats, handkerchiefs and setting a pretty table were not the exception saved for a special occasion but the norm of everyday life.
The tradition of afternoon tea played an important role in our family heritage, from European ancestors in the 1800s, establishing one of the largest tea estates in Ceylon, a father and son serving as the Lord Mayors of London during the reign of Queen Victoria, to the industrial revolutionary invention of the first commercial tea bag, all carried forth to hold great influence in Reva’s social development.
Whether for family occasions, social gatherings or a special event meant just for her favorite doll, there was always a reason for Reva to have a tea party.
When Reva married my father and “ defected” to the North, her teatime customs served her well in establishing new and lasting friendships.
Growing up, all of my schoolmates and business associates were befriended by Reva through the rituals of sharing afternoon tea.
It was not until as a young widow in the mid 1970s, after a trailblazing career in the stock market, when after suffering a stroke that rendered her partially paralyzed that Reva merged her life long interest in art and food to create magnificent sugar confections and literally spawned the rebirth of an entire industry of admiring followers with her edible art. The renowned wedding cake decorator, the late Sylvia Weinstock, was one of her students.
Reva maintained a thriving business until one month before her passing at age 87, servicing tearooms, party planners, and retail establishments, including custom product lines for Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue with exclusive hand decorated designs.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that in addition to the many business and artistic accomplishments achieved in her life, Reva was the co founder of the OPEN DOOR program for President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. The program was the precursor for what became the tourist arm of what is now NYC and CO. When you see a generic symbol or a color- coded line in an airport, hospital etc., you can thank Reva for guiding you to your destination.
How proud and fortunate I was to be the daughter of such a loving, creative and courageous woman. Reva gave me the greatest gift of all, for through her love of afternoon tea I have learned the meaning of true friendship, the adventure of exploring new places, the courage of my convictions to implement new ideas, to be kind to others and to always embrace the future.
My beloved, Reva, with her marvelous sense of humor, was a Nancy Drew who grew up to be Auntie Mame, passed away at home in January 2014, but her indelible strength of spirit and love lives on within me and my brother. Holding hands with my brother, and me Reva’s very last words were, “ I love you both.” To which we replied, “ We love you more.” Promises kept. Thankfully, my mother knew while she was alive that I felt it was an honor to be her daughter and was able to read what I wrote for her eulogy.
“Elegant, corn flower blue eyed Reva Mae younger than springtime and always young at heart, a glamour girl, Grande Dame, fashion plate, sportswoman, master chef, artist, hostess, animal lover, friend, aunt, cousin, daughter, wife, and mother extraordinaire, you taught us to walk through the storms with our heads held high, to walk on the sunny side of the street, put on a happy face and dream. Your love made our world go round. Since you’re gone and won’t be ours again, we’ll remember when it was a party just to be near you. Together, wherever we go, we’ll be loving you always. We had the very best when we got you for a mother. We only wish we could do it all over again. We will forever be your team. It has been the highest honor and greatest privilege to be your children. You lived an honorable life setting an example for all who follow. You will always be the first star we see at night. Feel the hugs and give one to Daddy.”
May you all share a tea time moment with friends and loved ones to create your own lasting memories.