Prince Chunk, an abandoned cat who made headlines for weighing an estimated 44 pounds, died last week.
According to his family, Prince Chunk died in his sleep shortly after he was diagnosed with a genetic form of heart disease. Chunk was believed to be between 10 and 12 years old.
Prince Chunk made headlines in 2008 when he was discovered wandering the streets of Voorhees, N.J., and was taken to a local animal shelter. For a stray cat, Prince Chunk, weighing an estimated 44 pounds, was an anomaly and soon his story was on the local news.
It was discovered that Chunk’s owner had abandoned him after she lost her home to foreclosure. The feline's plight made headlines all over the world and the shelter was flooded with over 500 requests to give him a new home.
That honor was given to the Damiani family of Blackwood, New Jersey.
Prince Chunk became a media darling appearing on "Good Morning America" and "Live with Regis and Kelly” as well as in People Magazine and The New York Post. Prince Chunk became a symbol of both loss and hope to many who were struggling in harsh economic times.
"We're all upset," said Vince Damiani, 20, of Blackwood, N.J. "We lost a family member."
In recent years, Chunk was living a quiet life outside the media spotlight and reportedly had even lost some weight.
Thanks to the Damiani family, Prince Chunk's legacy will not be his weight, but rather it will be helping thousands of owners keep their pets during hard times. The family started a foundation named after Chunk to provide temporary aid, including free veterinary care, to cat and dog owners in financial need. The Prince Chunk Foundation operates in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and California and hopes to expand nationwide.
"I always wanted to do more to help people and animals, and once I realized what Prince Chunk represented, the decision was easy," Vince Damiani said "After all, Prince Chunk is a public figure who a lot of people know and the media loves. What better way to get the message across and also help people to keep the pets they love?"
Photo credit:video capture Jose F. Moreno