The Joy of Happy People





Like the uncorking of a favorite champagne, there are a select few people in this world possessing of that same enticing effervescence. And we are the lucky ones getting to know these vivacious individuals with a palpable zest for life and a passion for the people around them.

This Thanksgiving weekend I give thanks for two inspiring women: Claire Hoppenworth and Kristin Noelle Smith, who light the world with their kindness.


Claire Hoppenworth.

Claire Hoppenworth.

About 20 years ago, Claire Hoppenworth began baking chicken pot pies for friends who had occasions to celebrate or losses to mourn. Each pie would be personalized with a message on the flaky crust.

“When a friend had a baby, I baked a pie with the baby’s monogram on top. I’d deliver the pie and babysit while the parents went out, or the mom simply took a nap. Soon, I was baking pies that had a new address on them when people moved, sometimes when there was a sadness in the family—a pie to stick in the freezer when they needed it. I hope that for friends who have lost parents or those who have simply had a bad day, the pies are nourishing for the body and soul. Sharing a hearty meal with someone really makes me happy.”

How to grow these gifts is something Claire is now considering. At the recent St. Chrysostom’s Day School Faire Extraordinaire, Claire’s chicken pot pies sold out by mid-day the first day.

“In essence, each pie is made to order. I made several during the World Series with the message, ‘Go Cubs Go.’ I really get a kick out of making each one. I don’t want to grow the business so large that I don’t have time to bake pies for my friends.”


An assortment of Claire's personalized pot pies.

An assortment of Claire’s personalized pot pies.

The Indianapolis native gets her children involved in this delicious sharing.

“My husband, Mitch, and our two children, Emily and Eli, march into the fire station each Christmas and give the fireman a pie, and we always make one for our mailman. My mother was a terrific cook and my brother Gordon Wishard is chef and owner of La Medusa in Seattle.”

In addition to the pies, Claire and her family always participated in the monthly feeding program Neighbors in

Need at St. Chrysostom’s Church before moving out to Wilmette, and the Cathedral Shelter Christmas basket programs, both of which make all the difference for many marginalized people.

For more information about Claire’s Wishworthy pot pies, contact


Kristen Noelle Smith.

Kristin Noelle Smith.

As Executive Director of the American Friends of Versailles, Kristin Noelle Smith frequently travels to Europe to promote this charitable corporation created to promote a positive American-French relationship and cultural exchange.

In Chicago, Kristin chairs the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, which offers monthly programs on fascinating and fashionable subjects for its members and guests, and she raises significant funds benefitting the Museum’s extensive costume collection.

Kristin’s sunny nature survives the hours of complex international arrangements including planning private chateau dinners, receptions at important French government locales such as the Élysée Palace and the U.S. Embassy, and benefit trips to Rome, the Riviera, Seville, and Sicily for the American Friends of Versailles. She is known for the spectacular fundraisers she implements including grand balls at the Palace.

“We raise funds for specific restoration and preservation projects at the Chateau de Versailles, so that future generations will enjoy this majestic opus, which is one of the world’s greatest museums visited by over 1.5 million Americans annually. Our current restoration project is the magnificent Baroque ceiling of the Queen’s Guard Room. Some people ask, ‘Why give to Versailles?’ Beyond its centuries of artistic achievement, there is a history that binds our two nations together—politically and historically—commencing with Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin.”

Whoever encounters Kristin in her negotiations realizes that they are dealing with a person who always makes time to deal gracefully with others. Her regal and healthy appearance comes from long walks with her dog and spin cycling; her exclamation-point enthusiasm from positive thinking.

“Of course I have my down times, but I understand every moment of life is indeed a gift, and smiles are contagious. I’m genuinely happy and celebrate when the people I know succeed. If I can be of help to them and spread a little cheer in this hurting world, that is a good thing.  

“I had a fantastic childhood, which I attribute to my fabulous, loving parents and grandparents. It wasn’t until I was living on my own in my mid-twenties that I began to experience some very painful losses. These certainly got my attention to better appreciate all the good in my life. I am a Christian and my faith give me much to be thankful and hopeful for.”

For many years Kristin has used several effective ways to bring more happiness into her life:

“I try to filter what I feed my mind, which in turn affects my disposition. I read a daily devotional to get my focus going in the right direction. Periodically, I read my ‘thank you list’ of all the wonderful things, people, animals, and events that I am grateful for—I recommend writing one and to keep adding to it.

“I also keep a ‘win list’ of my personal achievements, which reminds me of how blessed I have been throughout my entire life. One more thing that I do is occasionally read ‘my favorite sayings’ that I have collected over the years and put onto index cards. They are uplifting and good reminders that nothing changes until you do.”

Her enthusiasm translates into her zest for how she spends her time at the Chicago History Museum.

“There are several things I like best about serving as President of the Costume Council, including the ongoing discovery of the History Museums treasures. I have been inches away from the bead-embellished moccasins that President Lincoln wore when writing the Emancipation Proclamation. Wow!

“The Museum is launching a new app called Chicago 00, which overlays some of the museum’s vintage photos, via a smart phone or tablet, into the matched up camera’s view of the actual Chicago history site. The first version looks at the Eastland maritime disaster on the Chicago River. I can’t wait to see more of these virtual reality applications!”


During a trip to Sicily this past October.

During a trip to Sicily this past October.

Kristin’s passion for learning extends to vintage costume jewelry, baroque music, interior and garden design, and champagnes.

“Being successful in business and volunteering in kind and gracious ways—now that is fun!”