Connie Stewart, CFA's Iconic Campaigner

by LEE HARPER
Published January 2016

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CFA has lost a legend with the passing of the incomparable Connie Stewart of Wishes Persians.

While attending a cat show in Germany in October, Connie was hospitalized following complications from her longtime diabetes. She was making progress in hospital and plans were being made for her to return to her California home as soon as she was well enough.

Unexpectedly, on December 23, 2015, Connie passed away while still in Germany.

Wishes Persians

Connie began breeding Persians in the 1980s, concentrating on copper-eyed white Persians. Her early cats included bloodlines from Windborne, Kitty Charm, Revillion, Rondkirk, Furfrenz and Briar-Mar.

Connie always had an eye for a great cat. Combined with excellent grooming and savvy showing, she campaigned her homebred CEW, GC, NW Wishes Glad Rags to CFA's 13th Best Cat for 1990-1991.

By the mid -1990s Wishes Persians were regularly earning National Wins in CFA every year. Then in 2000-2001, Connie campaigned her homebred CEW white Persian boy GC, BW, NW Wishes Lyric to the top spot in CFA — Cat of the Year (COTY).

It was Connie's first COTY . . . but it wouldn't be her last . . .

 

A Legendary Campaigner

Connie loved showing and campaigning cats and for the next 25 years she devoted herself to her passion. Cats that she showed and owned or co-owned earned a remarkable total of 45 NW titles. Five times she campaigned cats to the highest spot in CFA — Cat of the Year — including the four Persians, GC, BW, NW Wishes Lyric, GC, BW, NW Melositos White Owl of D'Eden Lover, GC, BW, NW Sunny Ridge Polar Express of Wishes, and GC, BW, NW Belamy's Desiderata of Cinema plus the Exotic Shorthair, GC, BW, NW D'Eden Lover Pepito of Wishes. It is a remarkable accomplishment.

Connie became CFA's first "professional campaigner", most often showing cats for other breeders, in particularly for the Briar-Mar, D'Eden Lover and Cinema catteries.

As a competitor, Connie tried harder, was more determined and was willing to go farther and risk more than almost anyone. Yet as much as she loved winning, she also knew how to lose gracefully. Never complaining if her kitty lost, she would simply look forward and plan for the next show.


Connie's National Winners 1990-2015

From her first national winning Persian in 1991 to her final four National Winners of the 2014-15 show season, cats campaigned by Connie Stewart amassed an amazing 45 National CFA titles. The beauty of the cats and their perfect presentation are a testament to Connie's judgment, dedication and expertise.

1990-91
13th Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Wishes Glad Rags

 


Photo by Chanan
1995-96
2nd Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Furfrenz Nice'N Easy of Wishes

Photo by Chanan
1996-97

Photo by Chanan

2nd Best KittenGC, NW Rondirk Liberace of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

4th Best Kitten — GC, NW Briar-Mar Powder of Wishes
1997-98
5th Best Cat — GC, NW Briar-Mar Powder of Wishes

Photo by Chanan
1998-99

Photo by Chanan

3rd Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Wishes Musicman

Photo by Chanan

20th Best Kitten — GC, NW Wishes Serenade
1999-2000

Photo by Chanan

4th Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Wishes Powder Sugar

Photo by Chanan

9th Best Kitten— GC, NW Wishes Lyric
2000-01
Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Wishes Lyric

Photo by Chanan
2001-02
2nd Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Wishes Bolero

Photo by Chanan
2002-03
4th Best Kitten — GC, NW Catsafrats Star Fish of Wishes

Photo by Chanan
2003-04
8th Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Briar-Mar's Haley of Wishes

Photo by L. Johnson
2004-05

Photo by Chanan

3rd Best Kitten — GC, NW Couronne Magic of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

7th Best Kitten — GC, NW Argentovivo Juliet of Wishes
2005-06


Photo by Chanan

15th Best Kitten — NW D'Eden Lover She's One of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

17th Best Kitten — NW Couronne Casanova of Wishes


Photo by Chanan

25th Best Kitten — NW D'Eden Lover One Star of Wishes
2006-07

Photo by Chanan

Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Melositos White Owl of D'Eden Lover

Photo by Chanan

25th Best Cat— GC, BW, NW D'Eden Lover A-Paola of Wishes


Photo by Chanan

16th Best Kitten — GC, NW D'Eden Lover Cookie of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

2nd Best Kitten — GC, NW D'Eden Lover Lollipop of Wishes
2007-08
Best Cat —
GC, BW, NW Sunny Ridge Polar Express of Wishes

Photo by Chanan
2008-09
7th Best Cat & 6th Best Kitten —
GC, BW, NW Chancery's L.A. Ink of Wishes

Photo by Chanan
2009-10
9th Best Cat & 2nd Best Kitten —
GC, BW, NW Chancery's Tyra of Wishes 

Photo by Chanan
2010-11
 

Photo by Chanan

5th Best Cat — GC, NW Alemars Love Bug of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

7th Best Kitten — NW Sunny Ridge Bipolar of Wishes
2011-12

Photo by L. Johnson
Best Cat — GC, BW, NW D'Eden Lover Pepito of Wishes 

Photo by Chanan
18th Best Cat — GC, NW D'Eden Lover Giulietta

Photo by Chanan
25th Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Ghattas Deusa of Wishes
Photo by Chanan
7th Best Kitten — GC, NW Cinema's Poetry of Wishes
2012-13

Photo by Chanan
5th Best Kitten — GC, NW Latin Lover Danube of Jiang Nan


Photo by Chanan

12th Best Kitten — GC, NW D'Eden Lover Godiva of Wishes 


Photo by Chanan

13th Best Kitten — GC, NW Cinema's Obsession of Wishes

 


Photo by L. Johnson
19th Best Kitten — GC, NW Cinema's Chanel of Wishes
2013-14

Photo by Chanan

Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Belamy's Desiderata of Cinema

Photo by Chanan

2nd Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Cinema's Valentino of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

18th Best Kitten — GC, NW Cinema's Halo of Wishes
2014-15

Photo by Chanan

2nd Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Belamy's Odetta of Cinema

Photo by Chanan

10th Best Cat — GC, BW, NW Cinema's Don Jon of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

5th Best Kitten — GC, NW Cinema's Armani of Wishes

Photo by Chanan

12th Best Kitten & 14th Best Alter —
GP, NW Cinema's Liberace of Wishes

The Generous Groomer

Part of Connie's phenomenal success in the show ring was due to her ability to groom a Persian cat better than anyone else. Indeed, hers was the grooming standard to which all others were compared. She was always willing to go the extra mile to achieve perfection, not only shampooing her cat the morning of the show so that it was immaculate, but repeating the process the next day too so that it looked as good in the last ring on Sunday afternoon as it had in the first ring on Saturday morning. No effort was ever spared.

While Connie was fiercely competitive in the show ring, she was equally generous in sharing her grooming expertise. In particular, as CFA expanded beyond the borders of North America, Connie would often fly to shows overseas and hold clinics to teach new exhibitors in Europe and Asia the best techniques for grooming their Persians. It was not unusual to catch a glimpse of Connie in a show hotel hallway at 3 in the morning, in her silk pajamas, scurrying from her room to another with an armload of shampoos and conditioners to help a fellow exhibitor bath their cat.

Her generosity was boundless.

A Wonderful Friend

Connie was a remarkable woman in many ways; a tireless campaigner and a generous teacher; but perhaps her greatest impact on the cat fancy is evidenced by the friendships she made around the globe. For Connie, friendship and competition could go hand-in-hand.  She loved meeting new people and made life-long friends everywhere she went. When traveling to cat shows, whether across the country or around the world, she always took time to explore the tourist attractions and enjoy a taste of the local cuisine with her cat fancy friends. Connie enjoyed life at full throttle and shared her joy with everyone she met.

Connie used social media to stay connected with her many friends in the cat fancy so it was not surprising that tributes poured into her Facebook page upon her passing. Even just a small sampling of the posts illustrates the impact Connie had on fanciers around the world . . .

From Vicki Nye, CFA Judge, Windborne Persians and Connie's longtime best friend:

Connie would want you all to remember her as the happy, fun loving, crazy Connie that she was. We will all miss her giggle in the show hall and her competitive spirit. No one could condition and present a cat like Connie. Connie, I hope you keep watch over us in the show hall and remind us we are to be having fun in the cat fancy and treasure our friendships. I will miss you my dear friend.

From Kenny Currle, CFA Judge, USA

I am so saddened by the passing of a truly iconic lady who set the bar for CFA exhibitors worldwide. She left life, but the many she affected during her lifetime will carry on her spirit. An example of her giving and caring demeanor will never leave me. Connie, during the midst of a NW Kitten campaign, took a weekend from points to travel to Kuwait City, to hold grooming demonstrations with our new Kuwaiti cat fanciers. She did this on her own volition and dime. She loved CFA and personified what it takes to show pedigreed cats at their best.

From Bobbi Irie, Jobara Devon Rex, USA

CFA has lost a seriously dedicated and competitive exhibitor but simply, many have lost a friend. Her sparkling presence in the show hall was strongly evident and the cats she showed were most often the cats that exemplified setting the bar with outstanding presentation. In all my years of showing in CFA, I have never known anyone like Connie. Her passing is truly a loss for CFA, and her absence will be deeply felt.

From Olivier Grin, AOL Persians, Switzerland:

Connie was not only a legend in the cat fancy, but also part of my cat family. My heart is bleeding today as I say goodbye.  I want to remember all the good times we had together over the years and will cherish these memories.

From Samir Allel, France

Connie was a great lady of CFA. A magician of fur. She is certainly now in cat's paradise. Rest in peace, Connie.

From Aki Tamura, CFA judge and Connie's "second daughter", Japan:

When I first met Connie I was just 14 years old. When she said something to me I always replied "I know!". I was a monster teenager. I have so many memories of Connie in the past 25 years. She was my Great Teacher and my mother and my friend. My heart will be with her forever. I have to stop my tears and start walking again. I treasure her memory always.

From Tigerboy Wong, (Suki Lee) CFA judge, Hong Kong:

You have taught us so much inside and outside the show hall. You showed us winning takes a lot more effort than we think. We respect your never-give-up spirit. You introduced many wonderful friends to us. We have had so much fun all over the world. You always carried more weight than anyone else. You worked hard for every ring. You have more candies in your carrier than I have in my refrigerator. We still laugh at how you carried three full-coated Persians past Customs and the officers all said, "Wow!". Thank you for having us in your life. You will always be with us.

From Jimmy Lee, Felis Wonder Maine Coons, Malaysia:

Connie was the motivation for many to achieve the best, at least she was for me. We will truly miss her and the cat fancy will never be the same in her absence. You will never be forgotten.

From Dr. Moonyza, Catizzadi Persians, Malaysia:

A great lost in the cat fancy. I always admired her enthusiasm for showing her Persians. Her grooming and presentation of Persians was extraordinary and can never be challenged. Such a legacy to be remembered.

 


In Remembrance of Connie . . .

Connie Stewart carved her mark in to the history books of CFA and left her imprint in the hearts of many. It is unlikely that there will every be another person quite like her. Her laughter, her smile, her attitude and style will be remembered. She was one of a kind . . . and she will be missed.

With gratitude to the many friends and admirers who have shared their photos of Connie Stewart.



A younger Connie with one of her early CEW kittens


Omar Gonzalez, Connie Stewart (as a redhead!) and Gary Veach accepting the National award for GC NW Briar-Mar Powder of Wishes, Naples FL 1997


Connie with her best friend Vicki Nye

Judge Gary Powell, GC, BW, NW Wishes Lyric & Connie, 2001


Connie and COTY GC, BW, NW Melositos White Owl of D'Eden Lover surrounded by admirers in Hong Kong in 2006


2007


Connie & Omar Gonzalez


Connie, GC, BW, NW Belamy's Desiderata of Cinema and CFA judge Aki Tamura


Jimmy Lee with GC, NW Crisp Lil Red Corvette Kipp of Venizia (American Shorthair), Connie Stewart with GC, BW, NW Belamy's Odetta of Cinema
and Fion Cheng holding GC, BW, NW Venizia RedSilver Surfer of Tiggerland
(Maine Coon) at a show in China in 2015.

So Many Awards Presentations . . .


Sharon Markus, 2008 COTY GC, BW, NW Sunny-Ridge Polar Express of Wishes, Connie Stewart, Sharon’s husband Mel, and Pam DeLaBar,
president of Cat Fanciers Association of America at the CFA Annual Awards presentation in Louisville, Ky.


Blake Mayes, Monika Vowe-Lamys, Connie Stewart, and Dennis Adler celebrate COTY 2014, GC, BW, NW Belamy's Desiderata of Cinema


Olivier Grin & Connie Stewart

Connie Always Enjoyed Life . . .


Connie visiting with the pandas in Chengdu, China 2015


Only Connie would make fun of NOT being in jail in China after avoiding Chinese quarantine restrictions. . .


Connie snorkeling with Mita Pradu in Jakarta, Indonesia

The Incomparable Connie Stewart . . .




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