Students and staff at Saint Mary’s University who were shaken by the death of a beloved cat want to keep his memory alive.
Carlton, the school’s unofficial mascot, passed away from cancer on Oct. 31. A petition with more than 2,000 signatures is calling on the administration of the university to commission a memorial statue for the beloved cat.
For many students, Carlton was a source of emotional support.
“First year was hard on me,” says Justin Noakes, a third-year bachelor of commerce student and the creator of the petition. “He was a friendly face for me.”
The graduating class of 2020 commissioned local artist Mitchell Wiebe to do an oil painting of the cat.
“I think Carlton was nice to see when you were struggling with school,” says Lauren Young, a student at the university. “He was a bit of a distraction when you were not doing too well.”
Noakes says he started the petition to preserve what the cat did for a lot of students. “I started thinking how much other students would be affected by this,” says Noakes, referring to the cat’s passing.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was hard on me and I wasn’t even the owner.”
The petition for a memorial statue of the cat started on Nov. 1.
“Carlton would visit all the time,” says Olivia Negrinotti, a second-year student. “It was weird to think that he’s not gonna show up anymore.”
But Carlton was not just an iconic figure among Saint Mary’s students. He was also a significant presence for the university staff.
“I like cats and I guess he knew I was a cat person,” says security supervisor John Allen, referring to the cat’s frequent visits to the security department’s front desk. According to Allen, it was Carlton’s favourite breakfast spot.
Carlton was known to travel from a nearby neighbourhood to many places around campus. In 2016, his human family moved to a house near Saint Mary’s. Carlton began wandering around the campus and became a regular presence.
“We had wet food here,” says Allen. “He would always come for his wet breakfast and he’ll go around the campus and have his other Hobbit breakfasts as the morning went on in other people’s offices.”
Allen sits next to a collage of Carlton’s photos and cat snacks left by the university’s students at his desk.
Many staff members share fond memories of the cat.
Laura Campbell is an information clerk at Saint Mary’s. “It was very sad,” says Campbell about Carlton’s death. “Everyone here took it quite hard.”
During her first year of work, she remembers Carlton meeting her every day at 12 o’clock and showing up for campus tours.
“I’m not a cat person, but I still got a smile every time I saw him walk by,” says librarian Nicole Carter. “I felt surprisingly sad.”
Shelley Boucher is part of the facilities management staff. Her first encounter with Carlton happened when he jumped into her car. Boucher remembers sometimes riding the elevator with the cat. “I was always scared he was gonna get stuck,” says Boucher.
In response to the students’ petition, Margaret Murphy, the associate vice-president at Saint Mary’s, referred to the cat’s passing on the university’s X account (formerly Twitter): “We were sad to learn that Carlton, our famous neighbourhood campus cat, has passed. He was a #SMUCommunity icon and will be missed by many.”
Noakes says he met with the university’s vice-president regarding the petition and is awaiting the president’s response. He believes getting a Carlton statue is an achievable goal.
Some of the university staff members support the idea of honouring the iconic cat.
“I think that’s a great idea,” says Carter. “As long as it’s reasonable, I would support that.”
About the author
Victoria is a Franco-Polish student. She moved to Halifax to study journalism at King's. She's in her fourth year of the BJH program.