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Stubbs, Talkeetna’s honorary ‘mayor’ cat and beloved feline fixture, dies at 20

Stubbs the cat, the rusty orange feline fixture of Talkeetna, died last week.

Stubbs, a Manx mix without much of a tail, was a common sight for two decades in this quirky hamlet at the base of Denali. He also was the center of a pseudo-fabricated tale about a long-ago write-in election that made him mayor of a town that in reality doesn't even have a city council.

Stubbs at his counter perch. (Bailey Berg / Alaska Dispatch News)

Stubbs made it to 20-plus years before passing in his sleep sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.

The Spone family, owners of Stubbs hangouts Nagley's Store and the West Rib Pub & Grill, issued a statement over the weekend.

The family bought the businesses in 2015 and signed a contract that included the provision Stubbs stayed with the store. They were "warned" about all the publicity that came with him, though it was hard to fight the free public relations.

"No one could imagine the notoriety that Stubbs had," the family wrote in the statement. "Over 75 percent of visitors ask, 'Where's the Mayor?' or come in with this statement 'I have an appointment with the mayor.' I think we heard those two statements over 100 times a day during our first year."

An aging Stubbs began shrinking from the limelight in 2015 and more so last year, though he'd still occasionally hop up on the West Rib bar for his margarita glass full of water and catnip.

Over the years, Stubbs survived a BB gun shooting, a dog attack, an unplanned trip on a garbage truck, and a fall into a fryer vat not in use at the time.

But he never survived an election.

A political mythology sprang up around Stubbs years ago. Word got out — and remains in circulation — that he was actually elected Talkeetna's mayor in a 1990s write-in bid mounted by voters unhappy with the human candidates.

A standing Wikipedia entry for "Stubbs (cat)" that calls Talkeetna "only a historic district" describes him as mayor through early 2017.

That never happened: there was no write-in bid.

Also: there is no mayor of Talkeetna, human, feline or any other species.

It's an unincorporated community where locals complain about the lack of control over Matanuska-Susitna Borough government, but have yet to unify around becoming a city. A community council here advises the borough Assembly.

Nonetheless, the honorary title and trumped-up story attracted national headlines.

Stubbs and his people played it up, too.

Somebody set up a Twitter account — @MayorStubbs — in the name of "Mayor Stubbs, a cat." Stubbs made a run for president last year, turned 20 in April and didn't think much of dogs.

His death was marked in a tweet July 23: "20+ years. Several uncontested elections. Thousands of naps. We had a good run. #RIPStubbs"

And then this on Sunday: "Good news: I'm in Heaven. Bad news: ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN."

Now a new cat takes the furry mantle of in-name-only mayor: Denali, a sociable cat the Spones brought into the household last summer. He will pose with anyone, his owners say, "or just let you carry him around like a baby."

The Spones are putting together a photo and memory book about Stubbs to display at Nagley's. Photos can be emailed to info@NagleysStore.com

The family asked that people send cards or letters about Stubbs to Mayor Stubbs/Nagley's Store, P.O. Box 413, Talkeetna, AK 99676.

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