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460 Main Street    Location Map
  

'Lester'


Location: W side bet. McDermot & Bannatyne; rear, South Face

Occupant: Ted Molyka Dance Studio

District: City Centre

Neighbourhood: Exchange District

Artist(s): Mike Johnston, Matt Loxterkamp

Year: 2010

 

Notice:. Louise and I would like to dedicate this little space on our website in loving memory of our dear friend, Cora Kennedy, who died on Saturday, June 25, 2011 after a long battle with Cancer. This was her favourite Winnipeg wall, and she just loved the story behind this Mural, which appears immediately below.
===

Source: Winnipeg Free Press - Sunday Xtra 15/05/2011, reproduced with permission

LIVINGWORKINGPLAYINGDOWNTOWN

There's a lesson in LESTER

By David Connors


BESIDE the McDermot Avenue entrance to the Ted Motyka Dance Studio there is a curious mural of a cat.

It is a black cat, serenely gazing out from within a cloud of flowers. It looks like a saint.

The cat's name was Lester.

"Was he a saint? That's not far off," Avi Waldman says with just a bit of sadness in his voice. Like many a saint, Lester didn't start off that way, though.

"When I met him, he was the most vicious cat ever. If you even came within 10 feet of him, he would lunge at you. I've got the scars," says Waldman, owner of the All City Modern Convenience grocery store at 223 McDermot Ave.

Lester belonged to Waldman's roommate at the time.

"He didn't treat him very well. He just kept him in his bedroom for eight years. Eventually he decided he was going to get rid of Lester. I felt sorry for Lester. So I got rid of the roommate and kept the cat."

After the roommate was gone, Lester was still hiding in the bedroom. Waldman opened the front door, and when the cat came out, Waldman said, "Lester there it is. Freedom. You don't have to come back. I don't blame you if you don't come back. But if you do, there will always be a full bowl of food for you."

Lester did bolt for freedom but two hours later, when Waldman whistled for him, Lester came running back.

"I picked him up and took him to his food bowl. Since that day, he was the most cuddly cat ever."

So, why did Lester and his original owner have such a dysfunctional relationship?

"Well, who creates whom? Waldman muses. "I've always believed if you're treated like an animal, you will act like an animal. If you are treated with respect, you will give respect."

It was a lesson some of Waldman's friends quickly learned.

"At a party once, one of my friends pushed Lester out of a chair so he could sit down. I got up and pushed the friend out of the chair. I told him, 'Every chair is Lester's chair. He has as many rights as you do.'" Eventually, Waldman says, when his friends came to visit, they would always greet Lester first.

"I think they liked him better than they liked me."

Shortly after Lester died, last Oct, 10, Waldman's friends paid the cat an unusual tribute.

"Completely without my knowledge, they painted that mural." His friends, Matt Loxterkamp and Mike Johnston, both artists, had gotten permission from the dance studio and were about three-quarters of the way through their masterwork when Waldman, who lives in the Exchange, figured out something was up.

"I saw security guards standing on the street obviously looking at something. I went out to see what was up. You know how some people say, 'Graffiti downtown it's terrible.' But what my friends were painting on the wall it was beautiful."

A lot of downtowners seem to agree.

"One of my friend's studio overlooks Lester's mural. He told me he often sees flashes going off as people take pictures of Lester."

So, instead of just being the forgotten subject of another sad story of neglect, despair and untimely death, Lester is well on his way to becoming one of the city's most famous cats.

"And he was a great cat," Waldman says, "in character and in stature. He weighed in at over 30 pounds."

Waldman eventually got himself another pet, Birt, who is half Jack Russell, half corgi. Birt is not as impressed with the Lester story as most people are, "but he is great in his own right," Waldman says.

Lester's story is a perfect downtown story. A lot of people see the downtown as mean, ugly and vicious. Maybe they ought to give it a chance. Just like Lester got.

- by David Connors, a downtown-dweller