A lasting bond
Paul and Kim Cameron on what makes them love each other and Big Sky
In the telling of a love story it’s common to start at the beginning – or sometimes the end. In this case, it would be an injustice to Paul and Kim Cameron to begin anywhere other than where they are right at this moment – by sharing wisdom gleaned from decades with each other and in this community.
With the enviable habit noticeable in couples who have lasted and are still in love – they finish each other’s sentences. Just as, from years of working in kitchens together in Big Sky, they helped finish each other’s recipes.
“Our work history is rich but we’re more successful up here as people. We embrace the community and the community embraces us right back – because this is our home,” Paul says.
From-the-heart support has been common – something they share with each other and with the community.
“We’re pretty isolated up here. To have that community support as a whole and as an individual – think about those poor people in the city who have two friends on their whole street. We’ve got the whole town,” Kim says.
Paul believes they found what the perfect relationship is together and are now living it.
Kim continues the thought: “You have to work for a dream.”
Every relationship goes through ups and downs, but Paul feels that theirs has seen way more good times than bad.
“I understand that Kim is always right,” he says, inciting Kim’s laughter.
“What can I say? I married a smart guy,” she counters with a smile.
They both grew up near San Antonio. Kim, an only child, was catching frogs in the pond behind her house while Paul was catching fish in the creek with his sister and two brothers near their home. They had idyllic childhoods spent with a good deal of time outside, their skin warmed by the Texas sun. They wouldn’t meet until their 20s.
When Paul tells the story, he describes his gentlemanly act of looking out for Kim when they were out with friends. Kim says they got “hot and heavy” in the car when he gave her a ride home. They banter a bit over this and end up in fits of laughter.
Paul remembers the date because he went home and circled it on the calendar. Upon reflecting, he doesn’t know exactly why he did that – maybe he just knew. They were married a year later – to the day.
“When Kim and I first started dating. My family just embraced Kim. They could see there was something there. Within 10 minutes of meeting my brother, she was having a water fight with him. My family, we’re just a bunch of nut balls,” he says.
Kim’s mother got them a train trip through the Canadian Rockies as a wedding present and that’s when the two found their love of the mountains. They needed to head West. After a brief stint in New Mexico, they visited a friend of Kim’s who lived off the Gallatin River and never left the area.
“Lost a dog, found a dog, got jobs. We’ve been here ever since – 23 years and not one regret. We love it up here,” Paul says.
They were working as chefs at the Yellowstone Club in its early days, befriending Warren Miller before knowing who he was or his impact on the skiing and film communities. Kim describes his hugs: a giant of a man with the greatest bear hugs in the world. Paul explains how Warren taught him how to ski powder and proudly showed Warren Miller’s gift to him: a sketch of Paul – a chef skiing down the mountain.
They would also work at 320 Ranch and open Bugaboo Café together.
“We’ve cooked together our entire relationship, pretty much as a team. That’s pretty hard for a couple. I’ve known couples who can’t work two hours together without being at each other’s throats,” Paul said.
They balance each other and have always found laughter after exhausting days. Kim says they’ve always been interconnected.
Paul describes Kim as the creative one – the person who comes up with a menu while he is the person to execute her creations.
“I always said Kim would be great on Top Chef and I would be great on Hell’s Kitchen.
It amazes me the stuff she comes up with, things I would never think about in a million years.”
They would stay awake into the early morning talking, swapping ideas, excited about the creative world they created together.
They adore each other. It’s obvious. They are illuminated in the glow of love for one another. It’s beauty to behold – especially in light of what they have recently endured.
“We’ve had a lot of reflection and hard times and we’ve done it together. And we will continue to do it together. It’s… hard,” Kim said.
Life dealt the Cameron’s a difficult blow and they are bravely facing the present and the future with more love and courage than many people can muster in a lifetime.
With Paul’s liver failing, he went through the gauntlet of tests to be placed on the transplant list. A brain aneurism suffered in Texas cost him that shot at a new liver.
He is now on hospice and at home with Kim. She bakes cookies. They make homemade cards to give to friends and to people who extend kindness to them. They spend time loving on their expressive hound dog Amber. They listen to music. They swap stories. And they laugh – as fully and as beautifully as two people ever can.
Paul describes Kim as a strong and honest person.
“She keeps me honest – and she’s cute as hell. That never hurts, either. After 25 years, she’s definitely the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. And she’s fun. I love having fun and she’s always been right there along with me,” he said.
Kim admires her husband, whom she sometimes affectionately refers to as her “little lamb chop.”
She appreciates his sense of humor, spontaneity, absolute sincerity and honesty.
“What he believes is what he says – from the heart. Of all the people [in the world], when you think of the odds of finding the person that makes you complete, it’s kind of difficult. Especially at our age when you look around and you see people going through a lot of difficulties and you see what we’re going through and we’re more in love now than ever,” she said.
What they’ve been through the past year, with all the family support, proves how much his family loves Kim, Paul said. They would do anything for him. They would do anything for her.
“When the minister [at our wedding] asked me, ‘Do you take Paul to be your lawfully wedded husband?’ and I said, ‘I most certainly do!’ everybody laughed,” Kim says.
Paul asserts it was a very enthusiastic “I do.”
They’ve learned a lot during this time together and are navigating their difficult path with grace.
“You have to be accepting and grateful for what life hands you,” Kim says and points out that she appreciates being able to spend time with Paul – doing artsy-craftsy things, and talking to people. “Coming back to who really is Big Sky.”
You can donate to Paul and Kim's GoFundMe here: www.gofundme.com/paul-and-kim-cameron