The Old Man of Greentown: Residents embrace friendly feline as their community cat

·3 min read

May 25—GREENTOWN — Old Man waits patiently in the vestibule of Heartland Market in Greentown, perched on top of a wooden Lions Club eyeglasses recycling box.

He naps on and off, grooms his fur a little and quietly eyes the front door waiting for the next customer who will offer him a nice chin scratch or loving pat on the head. Most passersby can't resist him, and Old Man knows it, according to Sally Schroeder, a Heartland Market employee.

"He's got a lot of our customer's hearts," she said. "He really makes some people's day."

For many, the cat has become the de facto mascot for Greentown. Some say he's the mayor. Whatever his title may be, it's safe to say Old Man has become a furry fixture as Greentown's grocery store greeter.

Some people even drive from Kokomo to Greentown to shop at the market just so they can see Old Man, according to Brittany Wistendahl, his owner who lives next door with her husband, Mitchell, and their kids.

"He loves on everybody," she said. "He's just a social cat."

Wistendahl would know. She took in Old Man six years ago when she lived in Westfield after his former owners didn't want him anymore. He was named Stella at that time, under the assumption that the cat was a female.

It didn't take Wistendahl long to discover that wasn't the case. As a male cat, the name Stella just wouldn't do, she said.

After observing her new cat loved to lay on newspapers and look out the window while napping in the sun, Wistendahl had another name in mind, even thought she didn't know his age.

"You're such an old man, reading the newspaper and relaxing all day," she'd say to him. The name stuck.

The Wistendahls moved to Greentown three years ago when Indiana 22 was closed for construction. With little traffic, Old Man started wandering over to Heartland Market. Now, it's become his daily routine.

"It's almost like dropping him off at daycare," Wistendahl said.

And the residents of Greentown have become his babysitter.

Their former mail carrier would let Old Man hop in the car for company along the route before dropping the cat back at home at the end of the day. Then there's the Greentown couple who occasionally cruises over to the market just to take Old Man on a joyride in their golf cart.

Last Christmas, a local photographer even took professional photos of the cat against a wintry studio backdrop. Old Man sported a festive red bow and bell on his collar, looking regally at the camera.

Wistendahl said she's thrilled that the community loves her Old Man as much as she does.

"He's part of Greentown," she said. "If you need a friend, he's a friend."

But there are some people who don't know that yet. On the Greentown Connections Facebook page, photos occasionally emerge of Old Man with posts saying he's a lost cat in the parking lot of Heartland Market.

Those posts usually yield dozens of comments, safely assuring that it's just Old Man. He's always there.

"That's Old Man, the unofficial mayor of Greentown," reads one. "That's old man he's the towns cat," another says. "He's the G.O.A.T of cats. Definitely very loved by our community. Town Mascot."

The Wistendahls even named their new plumbing business after their cat. It's aptly named Old Man's Plumbing. And if a customer requests it, they'll even bring the Old Man himself along on the service call.

Now, with Greentown's 175th celebration coming up in August, Brittany says she wants to make Old Man's mascot status official by getting him on a float in the parade.

After all, a town that old needs an Old Man to go with it.

Kelly Lafferty Gerber can be reached at 765-454-8597, by email at or on Twitter @KLaffGerber.