As the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a new set of stresses and difficulties around the world, an unlikely hero brought comfort and happiness to many who visited Saint Joseph London throughout April to July, a hero that had been making his way around on all four legs in the parking lot of the hospital for over a year.
His name was Joe. And he was a cat.
His gravestone, placed carefully in the landscaping at the hospital, says it all: "Joe lived in the parking lot, supporting hospital staff and raising their spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was never caught but captured the hearts of all who met him."
Jordan Greer said he found the cat and named him Joe in early April. He later learned that some had seen Joe around the parking lot in 2019 and Joe was known by many in the community who had visited the hospital.
Greer said he began bringing food and water daily to Joe, since he lives nearby.
"Although he was skittish, he came to trust me and the other people I met who were also caring for him," Greer said of Joe. "He was sick, and we desperately wanted to get him to the vet and find him a loving home. However, his street smarts made him wary of cages, and capturing him proved impossible. Sadly, I came to feed Joe one evening to find that he had passed away, overcome by illness. I was heartbroken. I recovered his body and had his remains cremated."
Greer made a post in the local Facebook group, Lost and Found Pets London KY, that evening on July 25 notifying others of Joe's passing who may have seen him at the hospital.
"To my surprise, the post was flooded with hundreds of comments from other people who also knew Joe," Greer said. "I discovered he was actually a bit of a celebrity, cheering up hospital staff as they began or finished difficult work shifts. He also comforted hospital visitors, who spotted him while they cared for sick friends and family."
Since there was so much love extended toward Joe, approval was sought from Saint Joseph London President John Yanes and the hospital's local Mission to place a small memorial for Joe on the hospital grounds. The hospital administration approved.
On Thursday, October 1, Greer and hospital staff gathered together to bury Joe's ashes. The gravestone was donated by Gwen and Franklin Stivers and a small cat statue was donated by Lisa Paynter, a nurse at the hospital who also cared greatly for Joe.