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THE CAT LADY OF ALLENTOWN

Story ID:3643
Written by:Veronica Breen Hogle (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:Irish Cultural Events
Story type:OurEcho Community
Location:Buffalo New York USA
Year:2008
Person:Elizabeth Squire Deichman
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Following is an experience I had helping a woman to write about her cats. I hope Ourecho Community is an appropriate place to share this personal story.


THE CAT LADY OF ALLENTOWN
By Veronica Breen Hogle

I first met Elizabeth Squire Deichman, fondly known as Beth at a church social in Buffalo in the 1980s, and she invited me to a Sunday afternoon tea at her house. At a church auction in 1990, Beth was the high bidder on A Charles Dickens Christmas Dinner I offered at my house. Beth enjoyed entertaining and she showed her caring for her friends by inviting them to her house to enjoy meals that ranged from simple to grand. She also frequented restaurants that catered to women who enjoyed dressing up and were connoisseurs of teas, crumpets and scones, cucumber sandwiches and fancy desserts.

With a degree from the University at Buffalo, Beth dedicated her young life to helping injured and elderly people as an occupational therapist. During the last 25 years, she pioneered activities and published five books on how to keep the elderly active and well. She was an ideal role model in that two days a week, at age 80, she was a familiar figure at the wheel of her jazzy red car as a driver for Meals on Wheels. On the annual Allentown Garden Walk, thousands of people walked through and enjoyed her hidden Buffalo courtyard garden. Beth enjoyed people and had many friends whom she visited often and they frequently came to visit her.

Two years ago, Beth and I met again when I was a guest speaker on the history of Irish Lace for the Antique Club. We rekindled our friendship and she asked me if I would help her write a book about how her late husband introduced her to cats and how much joy the stray and homeless cats gave her. We got together many times while she told me the story of each cat’s life. Then, we rewrote the stories from the cats’ point of view. She is listed as the author and I am the editor. The back cover of the book states that profits and proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to agencies that help cats to be cared for and to help them to be placed in good homes.

In Beth’s new book titled “Nine Cats: Nine Lives In The Tall, Narrow Brick House,” a cat gives birth to her first litter and the guests who watch the special event say it was better than watching Wild Kingdom. Other cats join her for dinner parties, luncheons, bird-watch in the garden and enjoy birthday parties. They love when the mailman brings them packages. They are partners in kitchen calamities, watch baked Alaska melt in the oven and cause a dinner party to be smoked out. Of course they all hate going to the vet. Beth's love of cats and her concern for abused and homeless ones comes through in her book.

Sadly, in January, Beth fell down the stairs, had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. She rallied, became weak again, and she rallied once more. To keep her spirits up, I recorded her cat stories, and bought earphones so she could listen to the stories. With an I pod on her head, she looked cool propped up in her hospital bed as she listened, laughed and remembered her beloved cats and their antics. She loved the book cover, which is her tall, narrow brick house, and she read and listened to the final manuscript. The book was on the verge of being sent to the publisher. I did not want to rush Beth or the book. It was her book and I wanted her to own it. I took a seven-day trip to Ireland and when I returned I was told Beth died the morning I was boarding the plane at Dublin airport on my way back to Buffalo.

Beth’s book is now published and information on it was made available at her memorial service on March 29th. Her little book has 15 stories. Perhaps some cat lovers on Ourecho will be pleased to hear it is now listed on Amazon.com Barnes & Noble.com, Target.com and E-bay.com. The charming, little book is available for $10.00.

When I see cats, flower gardens, and groups of elegant women with silver hair, wearing colorful clothes, hats and white gloves, taking time to preserve their old friendships over an elegant meal, I remember Elizabeth Squire Deichman. She had beautiful soft brown eyes and a friendly smile. She was gracious, gentle, kind, generous, accomplished, colorful, elegant and humble. It was an honor to know and work with Beth, the cat lady of Allentown.

Beth is buried with her family under an old maple tree in section 15 of the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York. Pink, red and purple fresh flowers adorn the large upright stone that says S Q U I R E. The flowers are a fitting tribute to a colorful lady who showed her lovely garden to hundreds of people who came by during the Buffalo Allentown Garden Walk, held every July.


P.S. The tall, narrow brick house has been sold to a young couple with a toddler. They will have a great time chasing each other up and down the many sets of stairs. All the cats have found new homes.

In her Will, Beth gave a gift of 1,000 books to the SPCA of Erie County, New York State. So far, over 300 books have been bought. Because her Will is being probated in Surrogate Court, the book launch has been delayed. Hopefully, the book will be introduced to the public and sales will be brisk. If so, Beth would be very happy indeed.

Thank you for your interest and support. Veronica

Updated March 6, 2009

November 24, 2009. After a long delay. Beth's book has finally been released from Surrogate Court. A fund raiser, in cooperation with the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter,is planned for this coming Sunday. The book is also available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com for less than $10.00.

After an endless wait, Beth's wishes for her little book with 14 true stories about her beloved cats will be available to the public. It will do its work to raise funds for agencies to find good homes for homeless cats.