A warm summer sun is rising over verdant lawns, drying dew drops from blades of grass on its way to a clear blue sky. It is 1984 and school is out. Children do not rise with the ping-ping-glow of a smartphone. It is instead the giddy anticipation of hopping on a bicycle that draws them from bed. Gathering friends along the way while peddling the winding, treelined streets of Lake Forest, bronzed limbed and carefree, is the masterplan. Swimsuits are thrown on as base layers, allowance is shoved into pockets for ice cream at Sweets. Who knows what adventures may unfold on this glorious, wide-open day?
Stephanie Klein (née Beck) was born and raised, along with brothers Stewart and Warren, in Lake Forest. Riding her bike from sun-up to sun-down with friends that she continues to hold dear is a cherished memory. Playing tennis on the high school team, swimming at Knollwood, and working as a Sunset check-out girl are also fondly remembered. “Moving back here to raise our family was an easy decision,” she explains. “I wanted them to experience this sense of community and the freedom to roam that is rare in today’s world,” she shares. “But it is bittersweet…I’d give anything for my parents to have seen our boys grow up. They would have been such a huge presence in their lives.”
Jean and Lee Beck, Stephanie’s parents, were deeply committed Lake Foresters. After meeting at Waterloo High School in Iowa and attending separate colleges, they married. Lee then went to the University of Iowa’s medical school on the GI Bill and Jean took a job as an operating room nurse. They found their way to Chicago’s North Shore when Lee was sent to Great Lakes Naval Base, and to make ends meet, he moonlighted at Lake Forest Hospital. “And he stayed! He worked for 30 years at the hospital as an anesthesiologist, spending several as chief of staff,” she explains, smiling at the recollection. “My parents loved living here. My mom was President of the Lake Forest Symphony, and an incredibly passionate fundraiser. And she treasured playing bridge with friends and gardening at our family home.” Dr. Beck often spent his cherished free time hunting, and along with Jean, founded the Lake Forest chapter of Ducks Unlimited. She also fondly remembers his passion for golf. “If he wasn’t at the hospital, you would most likely find him on the golf course at Knollwood. He loved to play as a family, too. Most of our family vacations revolved around playing golf. We all grew up playing. That’s where I get my love of the game, from my dad.”
The apple does not fall far from the tree, as the saying goes. Stephanie, while raising Alex (20); Ryan (17); and Tyler (14); with her husband, Eric, has spent many hours devoted to community service. From serving on Lake Forest Hospital’s Women’s Health Advisory Council to completing a recent three-year term on the Lake Forest Caucus, giving back is part of who she is. It is the Beck DNA. “All of my jobs have been about service and helping people,” she relates. “It’s what I love to do.”
When Lee and Jean passed away in quick succession and her brothers were too distant to help, Stephanie was saddled with clearing out her parents’ home on the Lake Forest Academy grounds. “They were of the depression era when you saved everything,” she confides. “Dealing with 40 years of their collective accumulation was emotionally taxing and completely overwhelming.” This is what led her to create her current, thriving business, Happinest Organizing. She has distinguished herself by focusing on both external and internal clutter, tackling each project with compassion. “From my life experience I know that we all have emotional attachments to things. I have a great deal of empathy for clients dealing with the unenviable task of letting go,” she shares.
Talking with clients and sharing their stories aids in the process of parting with objects. “Clutter is indecision, and a huge part of my job is helping clients decide what to do.” The great value-add is that Happinest deals with every object after the decision-making process is complete. Purging, organizing and putting systems in place are major components of the company, but it does not end there. “I take everything away in the greenest possible way, including recycling and dropping donations at Forest & Found,” she states. “I often tell my clients that they have gotten their use and joy out of the things they’re letting go, and why not put those things out into the universe and let others enjoy them, too?”
Stephanie turned her passion into a business, with the hope of helping others and making a positive impact on their lives. Jean and Lee would no doubt be proud.
For more information on Happinest Organizing, visit happinestorganizing.com.