Happy Cappy

Walter Wagner, Jr. and Cappy. (Courtesy Photo)

Walter Wagner, Jr. and Cappy. (Courtesy Photo)

It has been said when rescuing an animal, that ultimately, it is the animal that rescued the human. Walt Wagner would agree. It was the least of his intentions when he stumbled upon a small adoption fair by Woodstock Humane Society with friend Jody Zimmerman, but fate and spontaneity brought the two together.

It’s very likely you know or at least recognize the name of Walter Wagner, Jr. from his storied and successful career in commercial real estate. When he opened his first company in 1959, he brokered the land lease with his first major client who developed Mall St. Matthews, the first fully enclosed mall in Kentucky, and acted as the leasing agent for the mall. Over the course of the next few decades, his recognizable client roster expanded to include names like Kroger and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Walter Wagner Co., LLC celebrates 57 years in business this year and includes a thriving property management business, overseeing the leasing and management of office buildings, retail centers and industrial properties for clients.       

Walt is used to taking risks when it comes to business that usually pay off, but when Jody suggested he adopt the friendly tan and white cat that playfully approached him that day, the proposition was met with studied hesitation. He had not had a pet since his children had lived at home and had never entertained the idea of welcoming another into his home. “Cappuccino” they called him for his coloring, and there was something about him that Walt could not resist. After signing the contract and honoring the mandatory waiting period, “Cappy” came home to Walt’s residence, now dubbed “Chez Cappy” signifying just how comfortable he has made himself in that home. Walt is full of humorous anecdotes regarding Cappy’s charmed life since coming to live with him: “Some people say it is nice for me to let Cappy rest on the dining room table while I eat. That’s not exactly right. It is kind of Cappy to let me share his table while he is resting!”    

To hear Walt share stories about Cappy is to hear a voice filled with pride, unending amusement and sincere love. While they do spend half of the year together at Chez Cappy, the cat accompanies Walt the remainder of the year to his winter home in Sarasota, Florida. Though he doesn’t enjoy the same freedom to go in and out as he pleases like he does in Kentucky due to the busy highway by the beach, Cappy does get his daily dose of the warm sun. “I have trained him to walk on a leash,” Walt shares, explaining that the special cat’s personality is almost more like a dog than a typical cat. “We get a lot of stares walking around with that leash,” he continues with a laugh.

To commemorate the honored and elevated status of Cappucino in Walt’s home, his friend Jody, credited for encouraging the adoption in the first place, commissioned artist Steve Sawyer from Versailles, Kentucky, to paint a regal portrait of Cappy. In fact, Walt is working with the “Art 4 God” artist on another special commission to commemorate an important upcoming occasion. Walt will celebrate his 85th birthday this June with a festive affair following a noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption led by his son, Father Walter. In an invitation signed Cappy Wagner, guests are invited to enjoy a cocktail buffet at Chez Cappy before seeing the new portrait unveiled at 7 p.m. “Now,” the invitation concludes, “it is time for my catnap!”

Winters in Florida, portrait sessions with famed artists, his own entertainment budget—what good fortune for Cappy that Walt Wagner happened into that adoption fair, though I’m sure Walt would claim the good fortune as his.

It really is no wonder that they call him “Happy Cappy.” VT

By Tonya Abeln