Courthouse notes passing of Mitze, a cat
By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 1/9/2003

Mitze the post office square courthouse kitty
Photo Copyright Boston Globe

Farewell to Mitze the courthouse cat, friend to judges and criminals, to pinstriped lawyers and uniformed janitors. 

Yesterday was a sad day at the McCormack courthouse in Post Office Square as people learned of the death of the black-and-white cat who acted as if he owned the stately lobby. Passersby tossed change and dollar bills into his empty bed. 

In a building where grim things often happen, where lives change in the moment it takes a jury to read aloud a verdict, Mitze was a soothing sight. 

''I think he kind of calmed people,'' said Martha Devereaux, the box rental clerk in the US Post Office on the first floor of the high-rise building. ''They weren't as frightened when they came in and saw the cat,'' she added, fighting back tears. 

Since Mitze, named by his original, Hungarian owners, had been around longer than most people who work in the building, much about him was a mystery. He was either born in a back room of the post office, or rescued from the street, or brought in as a kitten by a courthouse employee. He was inherited by several owners of the lobby coffee shop, who fed 
him and cared for him. Mitze spent most nights and weekends alone inside the shop. And he'd been around a long time - he was between 16 and 20 years old when he died. 

''It seems to me he's been there as long as I've been trying cases there,'' said Roger Witkin, a defense lawyer who works a few blocks from the courthouse. ''I have no fondness for cats, but he was a very pleasant fellow.'' 

The cat had arrived when the building housed the federal court. When the court moved to glitzier digs on the waterfront, Suffolk Superior Court and Boston Municipal Court moved in, and Mitze stayed. 

''Instead of going out to smoke a cigarette, you'd go down and pat the cat,'' said Denis McFadden, a caseworker in the Boston Municipal Court. 

Yesterday, Mitze's owners noted his passing with a sign above his empty bed. ''The employees and visitors of the J.W. McCormack Post Office and Court house were his family. He will be greatly missed.'' In his day, Mitze menaced courthouse mice and a few seeing-eye dogs, who learned to creep past his perch. He patrolled the halls, slinking by the security guards, with a steely glint in his eyes. 

He liked to jump up on the coffee shop's bundle of papers, especially when the day was drafty. ''He'd sit on a pile of newspapers and he'd never let you take one,'' said Superior Court Chief Justice Suzanne DelVecchio. ''I'm not a cat person, so I never bothered.'

In recent years, he was mostly content to sit, sphinxlike, outside the shop next to the soda machine. He spent hours sleeping in his bed. When he began to grow fat from so many people slipping him treats, his owners posted a sign, requesting restraint. More than a few ignored the entreaty, luring Mitze outside the view of his owner for a clandestine tidbit. 

In his final days, Mitze was cared for by Richard Keyes, who took over the lobby coffee shop in April. This Christmas, a lawyer anonymously donated a new bed, which was kept behind the counter. ''Everyone came looking for Mitze,'' Keyes said. ''He was like a 
friendly greeter.'' 

Mitze's end came on Tuesday after he had what a veterinarian said was a heart attack, and was euthanized. 

This morning, there will be an empty space outside the coffee shop. And the people passing by, with no reason to slow down, will keep on walking. 


This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 1/9/2003. 
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