Dozens of stray cats left behind by caretaker's death

Dozens of stray cats left behind by caretaker's death

READING, Pa. - A Reading woman who dedicated herself to taking care of stray cats has passed away, leaving local groups scrambling to find new homes for the many she left behind.

Marcia Schmehl, 74, died Saturday morning inside her apartment in the 300 block of North Sixth Street, leaving dozens of neighborhood cats without their caretaker.

"She really cared for them, and it shows. They're beautiful animals and they have great personalities and they'd make good pets for someone who needs a cat, wants a cat," said John Thomas, co-chairman of the Reading Center City Community Group, through which he knew Schmehl.

Thomas said Schmehl spent all of her savings to feed, care for, spay and neuter any cat that came through her backyard and a small lot that she owned across the street.

A neighbor told 69 News that Schmehl purchased the lot solely to have extra room to care for the cats.

"She had such a big heart. She could never refuse a cat," said Thomas.

Now, Thomas and the RCCCG are working with local spay-and-neuter groups, namely the Fairchild Foundation and No Nonsense Neutering, to save the cats.

"We're trying to reach out to the community and find homes to directly place the cats, rather than put them in shelters," said Thomas.

Thomas told 69 News that so far, two people have agreed to take in a cat.

One of those new owners, Corrie Lundgren of Reading, said he saw one of the kittens, a Calico, and "fell in love" instantly. Lundgren said he was a friend of Marcia and is proud to take one of her cats.

"The cats are real great cats. They're real friendly and I would love to see them get adopted out," said Lundgren.

Anyone interested in taking one of the cats, which range in age and breeds, can contact Thomas at

Friends of Schmehl told 69 News that she lived in Reading for decades and was active in the community. In 2001, she was featured on 69 News for her efforts to combat crime in the city.

According to the Berks County coroner's office, Schmehl died of natural causes.

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