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Frankly speaking, this cat will be missed by many

East Lyme - Sitting behind the counter at The Book Barn Downtown, Jim Miller, still in mourning, did his best to put the passing of Frank into context.

"Look, I get it, he was a cat," Miller said. "But you had to know Frank."

And seemingly everyone, from employees and customers to longtime residents and summer people, knew Frank.

Frank, the 12-pound, 15-year-old English sumo tabby who for seven years held court at the Niantic bookshop and quickly became local bibliophiles' favorite feline, was killed, most likely hit by a car, late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

"There's going to be a ton of tears when people find out," said Randi White, owner of The Book Barn.

Frank, friendly and spry despite his girth, became an icon for the downtown branch of the bookstore, so much so that he'd receive the odd postcard from admirers and the occasional piece of junk mail.

Miller said Frank was found by a sanitation worker, who on Monday brought his collar to the store.

"It was very nice of whoever did that," Miller said.

On Tuesday, a flower memorial sat atop a water cooler, while signs of Frank - empty food dishes, a packet of catnip, a scratched-to-hell wood panel on the counter - were still present at the store.

More than 400 people have joined a Facebook page set up in his memory.

Miller adopted Frank in 1997 from a friend who found him abandoned at Navy housing in Groton.

He was nearly called Cyrus, but "he looked like a Frank," Miller said.

After seven years of living with Miller in downtown New London, Frank moved to more commodious surroundings at the shop.

Frank's "last name" was Katzenjammer, which loosely means "cat crier" in German, but it's also a colloquialism for "hangover."

And Frank could inflict headaches on Book Barn employees, particularly during one of his several vanishings from the store. His first and most famous escape came soon after he moved into the store.

Miller said Frank went missing for three days until one night he heard a pronounced meow coming from the ceiling

"It was like 'The Tell-Tale Heart'," Miller said, referring to the Poe short story. "We, to this day, have no idea how he got up there."

The store's ceiling remains sagged in places in commemoration.

Glenn Shea, a Book Barn employee and poet, figured that Frank's last night on Earth was a jailbreak in search of mice or birds.

"It was his night out on the town," Shea said.

Searching for the proper encomium for Frank, Miller's encyclopedic mind seized on something music critic Lester Bangs wrote following the death of Elvis Presley.

"I'm paraphrasing," he said, "but we'll never agree on anything the way we agree on Frank."

s.chupaska@theday.com

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