"Don't ever look back on me or grieve for me- I have had a wonderful, full life. I had beautiful, compassionate parents who always supported me mentally and physically. I had wonderful grandparents until I was in my teens- next door." This was the message left to her family by Claire Smith Foster, who passed away peacefully on November 15, 2019. Her remarkable life will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 26, at 11:00 am at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Claire was the beloved, only child of Verne and Bruner Smith, born March 20, 1921, in Longview, TX. She graduated from Longview High School in 1939. While in high school, Claire's natural ability to dance was apparent when she performed at the Cotton Bowl as a majorette for the Longview Lobos, who won the 1938 football state championship. She attended Randolph Macon in 1939, where she pledged Pi Beta Phi sorority and remained an active member throughout her life. Her love of travel began early in life with a chaperoned trip to Europe in 1939 with Mrs. Armstrong's Trip of Distinction. She graduated from the University of Texas in 1941. In 1942, she was married to Durham Bivins and they had two daughters.
Community service was always a part of Claire's life. Her devotion to Longview manifested in her commitment and leadership to many organizations; the Civic Music Association, The Longview Museum and Arts Center, The Community Theater board, the YMCA board, founder of the Sabine Valley Mental Health and Retardation Center, the Daughters of American Revolution, and the board of Longfellows, as membership chairman for countless years. She served two terms as president of the Longview Charity League and shepherded it into The Junior League of America. Claire even found time to establish the first ladies PGA golf tournament at Pine Crest Country Club, where she won the first women's championship. In 1964, she married Hank Foster and they spent many happy years together. They loved to dance, travel, and their adventures took them throughout New Mexico and Colorado. Claire and Hank became part of the group known as the Kitchen Kabinet, a circle of great friends, who had a common love for the community and one another, and who gave of their extraordinary talents to the city of Longview.
Claire, with her partners, Betty Hurst and Patricia Houston, put Longview on the culinary map when they opened the Stockpot in 1980. They brought outstanding chefs to their East Texas corner of the cooking world, which included Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Simone Beck, Wolfgang Puck and many more. During these years, Claire and her partners had such fun travelling throughout Europe attending world famous cooking schools and making lifelong friends.
For many years, Claire served on the board of the esteemed American Institute of Food and Wine. She was even interviewed by "20/20" while at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. Her adventures in culinary arts led her and Betty Hurst to publish the cookbook, Private Stock, in 2010.
Claire's passion for life was the legacy she left for her family. We will remember her with each gourmet meal, each glass of champagne, and every last dance. Most of all, she taught us to live our lives with optimism, grace, and dignity.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Hank Foster, and dear friend, Ewing Adams. She is survived by her loving daughters, Twinkle Bivins Duncan and husband, Dr. Ed Duncan of Tyler,
Sally Bivins Thurtell and husband, Jim Thurtell of Dallas; Grandchildren Clay Duncan, wife Dr. Kelly Duncan of Houston, Claire Duncan Reynolds, husband Walt Reynolds of Fort Worth, Bruner Dyer, wife Melissa Dyer of Lakewood, CO, Allen Thurtell, wife Genan Thurtell of New York City; Great grandchildren, Jacqueline Reynolds, Duncan Reynolds, Knox Duncan and Whit Duncan; the loving cousins of the Crain family; friend Ernestina and husband, Angel Monsivais.
We would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Stephen Rydzak for his exceptional care throughout the years. Memorials may be directed to Trinity School of Texas and Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center.