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A Bloomsbury without Orlando

For almost 15 years, Bloomsbury regulars and visitors have loved Orlando as much as their favorite books. But all good things must come to an end. On Monday, Bloomsbury Books lost their mascot and feline friend, Orlando.

"He was the first one I'd see in the morning," said Karen Chapman, who has co-owned the bookstore with Sheila Burns for almost 30 years.

According to Bloomsbury regular Mary Anne Bergman, Orlando was more than just a pet; he was a reason to stop by the store.

"Every Friday we would go to Pangea and order salmon, and we would save Orlando a portion," said Bergman. "We would go on the children's bench and feed it to him."

Bergman would wear a jade bracelet that she would let Orlando smell so he could recognize her on the days she didn't have salmon. Whether Bergman and her husband, Kenneth had salmon or not, Orlando would enjoy 15 minutes of the Bergmans affection every day.

Salmon wasn't the only way the Bergmans showed Orlando they cared. During the holidays, the Bergmans would send Christmas cards, and they'd address Bloomsbury's card to "Orlando and Friends."

"I don't even like cats." Bergman said.

Bloomsbury adopted Orlando about 15 years ago by retired employee Marilyn Edwards and her daughter, Jennifer. His breed and exact age will always remain a mystery, but he was named after Virginia Woolf's "Orlando."

Chapman joked that, "He was a literate cat." One time he scratched the top of a box of books, and damaged a book titled "Women Who Love Dogs." After that, "We were sure he was able to read."

Although he scratched that box of books, Chapman never worried about him hurting anyone.

"Toddlers were the only thing he was afraid of," Chapman said, explaining that whenever he saw a toddler, he would run off and hide. "We never worried about him scratching someone."

"He was a working cat. He had a job, and he knew what it was," Chapman said. "He was a goodwill ambassador, he was a greeter."

Even as his health declined, the photogenic Orlando paid for his vet bills through postcards of him sold at the store.

"People were always taking photographs," Chapman said. "It was almost like he knew he was supposed to pose."

Photographer and longtime customer Diana Standing collaborated with co-owner Sheila Burns on a calendar featuring Orlando. The project didn't pan out, but her photos are prominently displayed along the stairwell at the store.

Whenever Standing entered the store, Orlando knew it was time to strike a pose in the children's section for her.

"Orlando would walk to the children's section from wherever he was," said Standing.

"He was just such a wise, sweet cat," Standing said. "That was a real special time for me."

Bloomsbury Books invites the public to share memories of Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2 to 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the store requests a donation to the animal shelter in Orlando's memory, or consider adopting a pet. For information on the service, call the store at 488-0029, or stop by Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St.