Lakeside residents raising money for memorial statue of beloved - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Lakeside residents raising money for memorial statue of beloved neighborhood cat

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Every community has their local celebrities. Duluth's Lakeside neighborhood is no different, except their celebrity isn't a person - it's a cat.

His name is Catsby, as in The Great Catsby.

"He was just a person trapped in a cat body," said owner, Mara Hagge, "My brother and I were googling punny cat names, and I saw "Catsby" and I just looked at him like, oh yeah, he's a Catsby."

The Hagges adopted Catsby in 2012. He was a barn cat and when they brought him into their Lakeside home, he wasn't fond of staying inside. 

"We tried to keep him inside for awhile, but he kept getting out," said Sue Hagge.

The Hagges say Catsby's favorite places to roam were the lakewalk, Ecumen Lakeshore, and Duluth East High School, where Catsby was such a hit, students made him his own Instagram page.

"Everybody takes pictures of him all the time, so I just made an Instagram account," said Ryley Graham, a Duluth East senior who created the page, "He was just like, a funny little cat that ran around Lakeside."

Catsby was a common sight around the neighborhood, friendly with anyone he'd meet.

 "He would just be hanging out in that corner [near Duluth East] and he would literally just lay over on his back and wait for people to give him belly rubs," said Dani Westholm, an English teacher at Duluth East who met Catsby when he jumped into her car in the school parking lot. 

Catsby also had a phone. The Hagges bought one because so many people were calling the number on his collar, thinking he was lost as he was roaming the neighborhood. Sue said she traveled and didn't want to get a call about Catsby on her cell phone when she was out of town. 

"Anytime that phone rang, we knew it was a Catsby call," Sue said of the special phone. 

That phone rang one day in  November 2016. 

"It was just before Thanksgiving, up on Superior Street a car struck him and he didn't make it," said Sue, "So, that was a hard call to get on the Catsby phone."

"The day after he died, a lot of the kids wore black to school," said Westholm.

"Everybody came to school a little bit sad, because everybody had kind of lost a friend," said Graham.

After his death, the Duluth News Tribune ran an article, a testament to his legacy in the Lakeside neighborhood.

The next testament is a work in process: A bronze statue in Catsby's likeness, put up in the area he loved, between the lakewalk and Duluth East High School.

"We started just brainstorming ways we could remember Catsby," said Duluth East junior, Chloe Cederstrom, of how the idea for the statue originated.

Duluth artist Ann Klefstad is creating the statue.

"It'll be bronze just like Roman heroes," she said, "It'll be a blue stone boulder with Catsby sitting on it."

The statue will have a QR code, linked to a blog filled with Catsby stories. 

"When people are walking by, they can scan with their phones the QR code and find out all these stories," said Westholm.

"It's mind boggling," said Mara of the community's plan to honor Catsby, "I guess that everyone just felt like he was their's."

The statue will cost about $3,000. 

The Catsby Memorial 5K Fun Run will raise money for it. The 5K will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 20 by Duluth East High School. You can register for the run, here.

You can also donate money on Catsby's Go Fund me page

Ten percent of the proceeds will go to Animal Allies until the cost of the statue is covered. After that, all the additional money raised will go to the shelter.

Klefstad says depending on fundraising, the statue could go up this summer. 

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