EVERETT — Greg Stewart liked cats and dogs.
But he favored felines and had several throughout his life before he died in March at the age of 62.
His last cat, Syrex, lived 19 years and died last year, his brother John Stewart said.
That’s why his family wasn’t surprised to learn he left over $40,000 from his estate to be split evenly by the Everett Animal Shelter and the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center near Arlington.
“He was an animal lover,” said John Stewart, 60, of Mukilteo.
Greg Stewart left $22,042.82 to each agency.
The gift awed the Everett shelter’s development manager, Lindsay Roe. Last year people and organizations made 2,876 donations to the shelter. Most range between $50 and $100, but have been as low as $2. It all adds up.
“This one was a big surprise for us and we’re very grateful,” Roe said.
Her fundraising position was created two years ago to help bolster operating revenue for medical expenses. Staffing, space and utilities are covered in the city’s budget. But the city takes in stray pets found across the county, examines them and tends to any health needs.
“When we take in these animals that were hit by a car and it’s an emergency, we can take in these animals and not say, ‘No, take it to a private vet,’” Roe said.
Last year, the Everett Animal Shelter Fund for Animals raised over $240,000.
This year the fundraising goal is $250,000. Stewart’s bequest is almost 10% of that target.
“It’s a very sizeable donation by our standards,” Roe said. “It might be the largest estate gift we’ve received, ever.”
In 2009 Greg Stewart adopted Misty, a long-haired orange female cat, from the Everett Animal Shelter. Like many animals there, her previous owners dropped her off. The shelter’s file on Misty only noted she was about 5 years old and had ear mites. Otherwise, she seemed like a healthy cat.
Greg’s brother, John Stewart, who lives in Mukilteo, doesn’t remember Misty living particularly long — not like Syrex, the 19 year old.
“It definitely was a lap cat,” he said. “He was attentive to the cats as far as buying the fancy food and doing all that.”
Gail Stewart, 65, said her brother Greg was getting over the loss of Syrex and probably would have adopted another cat. But public health guidelines for animal shelters made it difficult for him to visit, she said.
“He didn’t want to get one online,” she said. “He wanted to go to a shelter and connect with another older cat that needed him.”
Greg Stewart didn’t have any special connection to the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center that its executive director, Suzanne West, or his brother knew of.
On average the center gets a few estate gifts a year. Most, like Stewart’s, are a surprise.
Large donations from those bequests ranged from $1,000 to $50,000.
“It was wonderful,” West said. “We’re very fortunate that we get not only support from the public when they bring animals but also from people who send money to keep us going.”
Sarvey Wildlife Care Center’s five-person staff takes in and cares for about 3,000 animals — bears, eagles, squirrels, etc. — a year. Tending to them all costs about $500,000 annually.
Money from estate donations like Stewart’s goes into a capital improvement fund. Some day, it could be used to install a fire hydrant and line at the clinic, or an expansion.
“Our offices are in the founder’s old home,” West said. “It’s not something that really functions the way we need it to, but we make it work.”
Stewart’s donations will support animal care in his memory.
“If you’re thinking about an animal for your home, check out your local shelter or make a donation,” Gail Stewart said.
People can donate to the Everett Animal Shelter via checks made out to the Everett Animal Shelter and mailed to 333 Smith Island Road, Everett, WA, 98201 or via an online form that is expected to be updated early next year.
Donations to the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center can be made in an online form at sarveywildlife.org/donate.aspx.