Stray kitten warms widow's life

ROBIN CAUDELL/STAFF PHOTOPlattsburgh residents Jan Stanley (left) encouraged Judy Clancy to write a book about how her cat, Charlie Brown, came into her life. The two worked remotely on “Who Am I?” using tech skills they learned at Senior Planet Exploration Center North Country.

PLATTSBURGH — Jan Stanley and Judy Clancy have had many adventures as Stafford Middle School educators and in their retirement, but their latest project Judy started.

“I started just knowing Jan period because we've always known each other for so many years, done so many things together, and I should have known that when I said to her that I found a cat in the engine of my car that she would say, 'Let's write a book?'” Judy said.

“Over all these years, I should have known that. I always wanted to write a book. She's gotten me to do so many things throughout the years. We taught together. We did projects, presentations, everything else, but writing a book was not in my game plan. Adopting a cat was not in my game plan either.”


Neither was being a cat mom, but Charlie Brown changed that when he sought warmth in the engine of her car one cold, rainy day this spring.

Judy thought she heard a cat, dismissed it and went back into her city residence.

“I was recently living alone because my husband had passed away like a year before,” she said.

Judy heard the roaring of the sanitation trucks, and Harold, a sanitation worker knocked on her door.

“He said, 'Lady, I think I hear a cat in your car,'” she said.

“He was so sweet. He said, 'Do you want me to look?' I said, 'Why yes, I do.' He opened it up and here was this tiny, itty-bitty cat. And just so cute. I thought he would take him or do something. It wasn't my cat.”

She asked Harold what he was going to do, but he told her had to do his run.

“I said, 'But, I don't like cats,'” Judy said.

“So, he sat it down. I looked at it, and the cat looked at me and went and crawled up the stairs and sat on the front step. So, I picked up the cat. So that's how our book of Charlie began. And, then we worked together.”


“Who Am I?” is an existential question, even for cat foundlings like Charlie Brown.

The self-published book ( tells Charlie's story from his point of view.

“Every time I had a problem, her saying, 'It's your book,” Judy said.

She relied on Jan's expertise of nearly 30 books.

Judy had taught children's literature at SUNY Plattsburgh and reading to children who were not fond of reading.

“I had both loves, but I love, love books,” she said.

“Who Am I?” is filled with photographs of Charlie that Judy took with her smartphone.

The two of them utilized the knowledge they picked up at Senior Planet Exploration Center North Country at Champlain Centre.

“Jan did the graphic organizing,” Judy said.

“As much as putting me in the picture with the garbage man and Jan was not there when it happened. That's a bit of magic.”

“I used PhotoShop magic,” Jan said.

“It was a fun project, fun to work with.”

The book documents Charlie's encounters with Jan's neighbors and family members.

“All my neighbors were extremely helpful and liked him,” Judy said.

“And my grandchildren are all in there. And of course, we were taking the classes together at Senior Planet.”


Challenged friendly, they wanted to work on the book together but not always be together.

Enter Google docs.

“I just think that it's phenomenal that she's at her house on Foxfire and I'm here and we can see each other writing on the screen,” Jan said.

“We've learned a lot together,” Judy said.

“Self-taught and the plus by taking the classes.”

“It's a great place,” Jan said.

“It's really a great place.”

Judy hopes the book inspires children who don't know their origin stories.

“I was thinking that it would be nice for so many of these kids who are born and don't know where their parents are,” she said.

“They are so lost in the world. Not that I'm publishing it to sell. That was behind a lot of my thoughts. Charlie did find a family and a family of people, neighbors and helpers. If you read between the lines, that's what I was thinking about.”


Brown is Judy's maiden name.

“Charlie is kind of named for him and for me,” Judy said.

“We didn't know if he was boy or a girl because he was so little. My grandson said, 'Why don't we name him Charlie Brown?'”

Charlie was found the exact day after Judy's husband, Charles, was buried.

“I was convinced that he was either a present or a weird gift from my husband,” Judy said.

“I wasn't sure.”


Email Robin Caudell:




Recommended for you