Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Paul was the son of Clair and Carolyn (Welsh) VanMeter, both deceased.
Paul had a life-long love and near-encyclopedic knowledge of trains, railroads, and their influence in shaping landscapes and communities.
In 1976, Paul skipped his senior year in high school to travel across the country as a crewmember with the Bicentennial American Freedom Train, a traveling exhibition of unique and representative artifacts from the 200 year history of the U.S. He also contributed to the restoration of the historic steam engines that pulled the train.
Paul was an Eagle Scout, and a 1977 graduate of Wyomissing High School. He studied horticulture and nursery management at Pennsylvania State University.
From 1985 to 2007 Paul and his former wife, Christine Gilfillan, operated Flowers by VanMeter, Inc., in Wyomissing and West Reading.
Concurrently, Paul assisted his close friend Wolfgang Oehme with a wide range of landscape projects in the U.S. and in Germany. Paul started Usona Gardens, an independent garden design business, in 1999, and continued designing gardens until the time of his death. Beginning in 2008 he also worked as a design partner in all projects focused on the "New American Garden" with Don Pell, of Donald Pell Gardens in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
An accomplished photographer, painter, and writer; Paul worked in a studio at the Reading Artworks. In 2010 Paul co-founded VIADUCTgreene, a not-for-profit institution engaged in envisioning and promoting a public greenspace along disused tracks of the Philadelphia & Reading Railway's 9th Street and City Branch in Philadelphia. When writing about this project, On the High Line book author Annik La Farge recognized the creative clarity of Paul's vision, referring to him as the "Professor of Place."
Paul was an extraordinarily gifted observer, passionate about the nature of place and equally devoted to enriching the lives of communities through creative landscape planning and design. Paul's knowledge, adventurous spirit, and generosity in sharing his enthusiasms combined to make him a model and mentor to friends and professional peers alike.
High Line landscape designer Piet Oudolf remembers Paul as "a person who always made you think and someone you always learned from." Though his influence lives on in the lives and work of many, this irreplaceably original man will be sorely missed.
Friends and family are organizing a private memorial to be held in March. Donations may be made in Paul's memory to the Friends of the High Line, at 529 W 20th St #8W, New York, NY 10011. www.thehighline.org.
Edward J. Kuhn Funeral Home, Inc., West Reading is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be recorded at www.kuhnfuneralhome.com.