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SPENCER, Iowa -- One of the world's most famous felines, Dewey Readmore Books, died Wednesday in the arms of librarian Vicki Myron who had acted as his "mother" for most of the last 19 years.

Dewey was adopted as the library cat at the Spencer Public Library in January 1988 when he was found in the book drop on a cold Monday morning.

Myron said the thermometer read minus 10 degrees when she reported to work that day. Once in the building, she heard a muffled whimpering sound and she and another librarian soon uncovered one very small, very chilly yellow kitten under a pile of books.

"We didn't know if someone abandoned him or if a Good Samaritan found him on the street and shoved him in the book drop to get him out of the cold," she explained.

"His paws were frozen. We warmed him up and fed him and he just purred and cuddled. From day one, we felt he'd be the right personality for the public. He's always loved people and meetings."

Dewey attained instant fame. News and television crews came from as far away as Japan to do stories about him. At last check, Myron said she found 222 "hits" for Dewey's name at the Internet site "Google."

Myron said she knew she had a celebrity on her hands when she conducted the contest to name the library's kitten shortly after he was found. While previous library contests had attracted only a dozen or so entries, a total of 387 names were submitted. Dewey Readmore Books was named after the Dewey Decimal System that is the cataloging system used in many libraries.

Fast worldwide fame

The cat's celebrity brought him pen pals in England, Canada, South Africa, Belgium and France, in addition to adding to the approximately 100,000 visitors the library sees each year.

"The TV staff from Tokyo didn't believe me when I told them people arranged their vacations just so they could stop here to meet him," Myron explained last year. "But then a family from Rhode Island came in just to have their picture taken with him. They were on vacation and rented a car in Minneapolis just so they could drive down here and see Dewey."

Dewey's fame also helped raise thousands of dollars for the library.

Age was 90+ in 'cat years'

Myron notes that Dewey was somewhere in his 90s in cat years. He had been experiencing health problems recently and was diagnosed with a stomach tumor shortly before Nov. 18, which was officially marked as his 19th birthday.

The librarian said Dewey recently weighed less than 5 pounds after hitting nearly 9 pounds in his younger days. Even with more than a can of cat food each day and some "people food," too, his weight continued to decline.

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A recent library newsletter noted that Dewey "loves scrambled eggs in the morning and Arby's roast beef, plain cheeseburgers, tuna sandwiches, boiled ham and chicken garlic TV dinners still make him come running."

Myron's comments in the November newsletter explained, "Some folks think that he should retire and come to my house to live out his days in quiet. But that would be worse than prison for him. He hates being alone and can't stand the days we are closed. He still insists on going to meetings and events even if there are 200 people milling around."

Library staffer Kim Peterson said Dewey "had been ill for a couple days, then looked like he was rallying." It was when he started "acting funny trying to hide," that Myron took him to the vet and he was put to sleep.

Because Myron has been out of town since Dewey died, Peterson says plans for a memorial are uncertain. But, she said, there is discussion of having Dewey cremated and his ashes buried on the library grounds.

The library has sold thousands of postcards featuring the famous feline. And they are still available at the Spencer Library or on the library's Website: www.spencerlibrary.com.

The site also has a page of pictures titled "A day in the life of a special library cat."

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