This story is one of several created by Coe College students in their Feature Story Writing class under the instruction of Dr. Jane Nesmith. Click here to learn more about Coe College’s Writing Program.
Kitty Will Make Your Day and Your Salad Too
Lunch is often a time for people to unwind after a long morning. Whether it be a break from work or errands that have been piling up, lunch is commonly taken advantage of to enjoy a bit of relaxation.
For Kitty Smith, this is exactly what motivates her to get up every single morning and go to work with a happy heart and grateful smile.
Kitty is a cook at Coe College and is known there as “The Salad Queen.” Most days you can find her at her usual station in the college’s cafeteria preparing salads and chatting away with those waiting in line.
She has been cooking for 40 years and still her eyes light up with passion when she talks about it. “I’ve got to go to work today and make the best salads I can for these kids,” she says. “Feeding people is important. People have to eat every single day, it keeps your brain and your body going.”
Kitty casually mentioned that she once cooked for Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones as well as for Governor Robert Ray and his wife Billie Ray. The governor’s wife wrote a letter soon after thanking Kitty and asking her for her Swedish meatballs recipe.
Wilton’s candy kitchen
Kitty grew up in a little town called Wilton, Iowa (previously called Wilton Junction) with her five siblings. She recalled the most influential person from her childhood to be George Nopolous, owner of the Candy Kitchen. “He ran this kitchen my whole life and whenever we went there as kids he would always be laughing and smiling,” she recalls. “He was always very personable to the customers, and looking back I see how much he influenced my own attitude. He’d always be whistling and joking with us. I think about him a lot when I’m at work.”
According to the Candy Kitchen’s official website, it is the oldest ongoing ice cream parlor/soda fountain in the world and has been serving visitors ice cream, lunches, and candy for over 150 years. Kitty said that she often finds herself whistling the same tune George would while working.
Now 58, Kitty says that she has been most satisfied in her life when she is giving back to others. She often visits her loved ones at the nursing home.
“I’ll come in for a visit and see smiles stretch across everyone’s faces. I’ll greet them and they’ll all say hello like Kitty! Meow, meow, meow!” she laughs. “It just makes me smile to make them smile.”
Kitty is constantly finding ways throughout her day to bring happiness to everyone that crosses her path and her salad station in Coe’s cafeteria. Cassie Hocker looks forward to seeing Kitty each day during her lunch break in between classes.
“Kitty! She’s fantastic! She always has a different special salad each day and I love that she provides that option especially since I’m an athlete,” she says. “She jokes with me and my friends and never fails to make me laugh. It’s definitely a nice break from the stresses of reality for a while.” The relationships that she has with everyone at the college are very special, not only to Kitty, but also to them.
Story and photo by Amanda Brummet