Joella Bradshaw and her cat, Pusser

Pusser tolerates a photo op with her loving owner, Joella Bradshaw. 

Born in Reading, Pa., Joella Thompson joined the Navy after college and met her future husband, John Bradshaw, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital during World War II. After the war, they moved to Orange and settled in for the long haul. Widowed now, 96-year-old Joella Bradshaw presides over her sitting room from a big comfortable chair. She has plenty of visitors, including family members who live close by and often stay with her, but when it comes to a constant companion, that would be Pusser. Bradshaw gets a kick out of telling the story of how she ended up with the lovely calico feline who patrols the house with her nose and tail in the air. About 10 years ago, Bradshaw was mourning the loss of her “tremendous” Maine Coon cat, a dear pet. Her sister was living with her at the time, and they noticed a small, silent visitor peering in at them from the backyard. “My sister said, ‘Did you ask God for a cat?’ I said ‘No.’ She said, ‘That cat’s been out there three days.’” Bradshaw told her sister, “Set some food out there for her. I can’t stand it anymore.” The sisters were in for a surprise: “That cat didn’t want food. She wanted a home. She came in; we couldn’t get her out.” The kitty knew a good deal when she saw one, and so did Bradshaw. “She’s loyal,” Bradshaw said with an affectionate smile. “She sleeps at my feet every night.”  

Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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