44 years after they were sold, woman finds ceramic cats from her childhood

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Donna Graves of Medina, right, and Debi Cone of Nunda, formerly of Holley, share a hug as they meet on Saturday at Graves’ home. Graves’ brother David Williams, who died in February, purchased three ceramic cats from Cone’s mother at a yard sale 44 years ago, and Cone has been searching for them for years.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 1 June 2021 at 11:54 am

MEDINA – Life can be full of surprises.

Just ask Donna Graves of Medina and Debi Cone of Nunda, formerly of Holley.

The two met quite by chance when they discovered a unique connection.

Forty-four years ago, Cone’s mother, who lived on Child Street in Rochester, put three ceramic cats for sale in a yard sale. She had had the cats for a few years and when Cone was 5, she was helping her mother dust when she broke one of the smaller ones. She was so scared, she ran upstairs and hid, she said on Saturday, when she met Graves for the first time.

Graves’ brother, the late David Williams, was deaf and attending school at the National Technology Institute for the Deaf in Rochester when he purchased the three cats at that yard sale in 1977.

Donna Graves, left, and Debi Cone have a lot to talk about after Cone found three ceramic cats her mother had sold 44 years ago and Graves advertised them for sale online.

“He loved cats,” Graves said. “He had three real cats.”

After Williams’ death Feb. 10, Graves, who is retired from the military, came home from Florida to clean out her brother’s house, planning to have a yard sale during Medina’s Community Yard Sale on June 5. The cats, however, and several other special items, she advertised for sale on Marketplace online. She immediately got a call from a woman who wanted them, but the woman failed to show up as she promised.

Then Graves got another call – from Cone.

Cone begged Graves to hold the cats for her.

“They’re mine,” she screamed over the phone. “I think they were my mother’s and I’ve been searching online for them for years.”

She asked Graves where she had gotten them and to prove they were, indeed, her mother’s cats, Cone told about breaking one of the smaller ones and asked Graves to check the neck and she would see where it had been repaired.

Sure enough, there was a fine crack around the neck of the smaller one which had been repaired and which Graves had never noticed before.

Cone, who had recently moved from Holley to Nunda with her partner Mike Costello, told Graves they would come and get the cats on Saturday.

“It’s like she’s getting part of her family back,” Graves said.

Both Cone and Graves are the only surviving members of their family. Williams was Graves’ last surviving relative, and Cone lost her parents and sister in the span of a year in 2019-20.

Cone arrived with several pictures of the cats when her mother owned them. One picture, taken in 1968, shows Cone and her sister, whose name was Donna, sitting in front of the cats on a table in their mother’s living room.

Cone said her mother had purchased the cats in the 1960s from a department store called Gems. She said her mother had collected birds, but for some reason bought these cats.

Cone is going to put the cats in a case where nothing will happen to them, she said.

Graves said after she heard Cone’s story, she couldn’t possibly charge her for the cats. She’s just happy they are back home.