Mask maven: Island resident doing her part to keep community safe

10 April 2020

By Anthony Garzilli

When Paula Traver returned recently from yet another trip to Walmart, the Hilton Head Island resident wasn’t ready to rest. There was so much to be done.

Since last weekend, Traver has spent about 12 hours each day sewing masks to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Using fabric depicting Batman and the solar system, Traver’s designs originally were just for family, friends and her real estate clients. But late last week her husband Jack went to Grayco wearing one of the masks she made. The mask was a hit at the hardware store and management asked Jack if Paula could make some for its employees. Sure, she said —16 masks shouldn’t be a problem.

Word of the masks spread within the company. When Grayco asked for masks for two of its other stores, 16 turned into 80 and Paula headed back to Walmart. More fabric was needed.

Then the Jazz Corner and Sea Island Landscaping asked for 25 masks, Traver said, and she plans to make 45 to send to Traver IDC, her family’s electric company in Connecticut. About eight businesses had requested masks as of April 8. “It’s been fun,” said Traver, who has lived on Hilton Head Island for 17 years.

With help from her friend Patty Zensinger, who has purchased fabric and helped with cutting and ironing, Traver and Gloria Krolak have done lots of sewing. The 48 different cotton designs include scenes of Paris and two London designs — one of buses and the other depicting a trip around London. Traver says these make her think of her daughter, who lives in London with her husband.

There are plenty of Disney themes, too. And Stars Wars and Trolls. Traver said she is stunned by the demand for her masks. “I was blown away,” she said. “It feels really good to give back.”

Traver said she had never made a mask before, but she watched a few YouTube videos and through trial and error, including five prototypes, she settled on her unique masks.

She includes cleaning instructions (wash every day with soap and water for 20 seconds. Hang dry or dryer) and a note with each mask: This mask was lovingly made for you.

This is not Traver’s first experience helping others during extreme times of need.

In 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Traver and a group from her church in Connecticut traveled on a charter bus to Ground Zero. With help from the General Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Diocese of New York, they brought supplies including masks, shoes and socks, hoping to provide relief for firefighters working at the scene.

The trip was such a success that Traver decided to keep giving. During the next four months she returned frequently to Ground Zero with local fire and police departments and school teachers and brought supplies, fresh sandwiches and good cheer.

This instinct to help in times of crisis came roaring back with the mask project. “I try to get fun fabric that I hope makes people smile,” Traver said. “I just hope to lighten the mood a little. If I can help people smile, that just feels good.”

For more information about her masks, call Traver at 843-247-3728.

Queen of Christmas



On Hilton Head Island, there are parties and there are parties. That second type is the kind that people look forward to all year long. They mark their calendars well in advance, arrange for babysitters, and watch the days roll by as their excitement builds.

Paula Traver’s annual Christmas do is just such a party.

HHM Xmas 005“I love being with my family and my friends, and I am very blessed to have so many wonderful friends down here,” Traver said. Lavishly decorated and boasting a gourmet spread of specially prepared cuisine, her annual shindig’s guest list has grown over the years to well over 100.

Preparations begin the day after Thanksgiving, when Traver and her family pull out Christmas décor that occupies roughly a third of their spacious attic. Then they get to work decking the halls with countless trinkets, wreaths, garlands and seasonal delights, to say nothing of three 12-foot Christmas trees, each with its own theme and colors.

“Every year I mix it up. I have a huge snowman collection that moves from room to room each year,” Traver said. “When the family arrives we have a contest where you count how many snowmen are in the house.”

Last year there were 105 and Traver plans to add more this year. The centerpiece of the whole affair is an 80-piece Christmas village, a beautifully crafted landscape of small-town charm that takes Traver three days to assemble.

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“That’s the biggest labor of love there is,” she said.

Outside, Traver has Branches in the Village at Wexford set the mood with delightful swags and wreaths donning every tree, bush and door.

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“I’m very proud of how the house comes together,” she said. “It takes a lot of time, but it’s all worth it.”

With the stage set, it’s time to welcome the legion of guests who attend. One part cookie swap, one part gift exchange, and several parts old-fashioned festival of cheer, Traver pulls out all the stops for her annual fete.

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The pastries and cookies in the accompanying photos came from Carrie Castano of Custom Confections in Bluffton, and for everything else there’s her family’s own traveling chef, son-in-law Gerrard Ball. The husband of daughter Jillian, he flies in every year from London to oversee the kitchen.

“It’s a British afternoon tea theme, so everything’s authentic,” Traver said. “I have a good team in place and I’m very blessed that the whole family chips in.”

While it’s a team effort, the result is a legendary party that has earned Traver the nickname, “The Queen of Christmas.”

“If my legacy is to be known as the Queen of Christmas, I will wear the tiara proudly,” she said.