Originally published in the Hamtramck Review
Beloved tabby, En Voz “Alto” Oberholtzer passed away this week in front of his home on Trowbridge street. He was approximately 5 years and 9 lives old. Alto met his demise fleeing from the neighbor’s uninhibited dog, only to collide with a car that failed to slow before (or after) impact. So ended a lifetime of unabashed independence roaming the streets of Hamtramck with more freedom than a songbird, which he was quite fond of.
Alto is survived by his loving caretakers, Michele Oberholtzer and Jeff Zimmerman, who called him theirs, but knew he was actually everyone’s, and no one’s.
Alto was likely born somewhere near the Highland Park-Detroit border. He joined Michele’s family by serenading her in the parking lot of Detroit Unity Temple Church in a convincing display of orphanhood. He has subsequently used that move on approximately 35% of the residents of Hamtramck, who have alternately pet him, fed him, and temporarily adopted him depending on their generosity and/or gullibility.
Alto did not experience boundaries. His turf ranged from Burger to Evaline, from Gallagher to Lumpkin, traveling solo or following Michele from his personal kitty sidewalk along the curb. He explored basements and scaled rooftops. He navigated city street and wooded forests. He frequented many local establishments including Whiskey in the Jar, Olomon Cafe, Planet Ant Theatre, Best Deals Furniture and once, surreptitiously, Al Haramein. He loved few but was affectionate toward all. He rarely deigned to wear a collar.
Alto may or may not be a casualty of the excessive speeds on Hamtramck streets, maybe it was just bad timing. But, we who love him hope that his passing will be a reminder for all pedestrians to be so so careful, and to all drivers to slow down as though life was fragile, because it is.