We lost a giant in our community – a giant who stood 11 inches tall and weighed 7 pounds. Percy the revered Russian blue feline went to heaven at 4:55 pm November 3, 2017.
Percy arrived at the Joplin Museum unannounced. Looking for cover, he made a temporary home under a wooden mining hand jig just outside the museum entrance during the winter of 1999. No longer hungry and cold, he found relief moving indoors to a new, permanent home as the museum’s only full-time resident. A place he was meant to be.
Over the last 18 years, the community watched him evolve from a small kitten, to a grown cat, to an elder statesman.
Percy was the unwavering friend. At his museum home, he entertained museum visitors and made people smile greeting more than a quarter of a million visitors. Percy gave the museum a unique warm friendly feature. For those traveling that were cat or animal lovers, Percy made their stop that much more enjoyable. He touched adults and children alike and they touched him literally one hand at a time petting his head one hundred thousand times over.
He was blessed with two wonderful local doctors - Dr. Steve Walstad and Dr. Michelle Cahill. We are forever grateful to Dr. Walstad and Dr. Cahill for their continuous years of providing outstanding healthcare. But there were two other doctors that extended his life by performing successful medical treatments to ward off his cancer - Dr. Candice Layton a skilled surgeon with the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Overland Park Kansas, and radiation specialist Dr. Carolyn Henry with the University of Missouri Veterinary Hospital.
We are heartbroken, but so ever thankful Percy came into our lives. The museum will never be the same. He was the best ambassador the museum ever had. Percy was there every day, every minute, except when he received his radiation treatments in Columbia (and an unfortunate, 48-hour abduction which someone thankfully returned him to his rightful home). He was a secure ever-present fixture, just like the incredible Tri-State minerals on display.
To those that love them, our four-legged friends are super heroes. We obviously want them to live forever, but that’s just not the way life is. We know that fact upfront, but nevertheless we willingly take them in and let them steal our hearts. They become part of our family. We provide at times crazy, unexplained gifts of love to them and yet what we give them never compares to what they give back to us.
Percy had a tremendous following of people who adored him, from the governor of Missouri to pen pals around the globe. Every year he thrilled busloads of third graders. Percy had a unique way of stopping my slide presentations when he entered Cox Hall as the children gasped in glee.
I thank everyone who has been so wonderfully nice to him through the years.
I will never forget all the people that stopped me at the grocery store, bank or filling station to ask me, “How is Percy? Give him some love for me.”
Percy will be buried next to the museum just as Betty Bear is interred at Schifferdecker park near her home. Betty was a legendary beloved animal that lived in Schifferdecker park during the 1940s and 1950s. Percy’s home was the museum and he will forever rest near the place he resided.
Percy had a marvelous life. We were so blessed to have him in ours.