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Commemorating the Legacy of ‘Gatos and Beans’ Owner

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. () – If you had chanced upon Elysian Gardens in downtown Birmingham one Saturday afternoon, you would have found yourself immersed in a scene filled with music, laughter, warm embraces among friends, and smiles mingling with colorful balloons and streamers. Amidst these joyful moments, there were also tears, solemn hugs, and the deep, contemplative gazes that only sorrow can evoke.

This touching gathering was a tribute to the life of Kelli Steward, the visionary behind Gatos & Beans, Birmingham’s trailblazing cat cafe.

Family and friends remember Kelli StewardFamily and friends gather to honor Kelli Steward (WBRC)

Beneath the canopy of the garden bar, a crowd of individuals shared their love and grief for Steward, reminiscing with a mix of happy smiles and sorrowful glances as images from her life flickered across TV screens. A guestbook awaited at the entrance, encouraging visitors to sign their names and recount anecdotes of their experiences with her.

Her husband, Stephen, greeted guests with a gentle smile. Amidst his jokes and laughter filling the air, there were fleeting moments of solemnity when he and a visitor shared a moment of grief, followed by a heartfelt embrace. Yet, the jovial atmosphere quickly returned, and the commemoration continued.

“It’s truly remarkable,” remarked Steward, observing the large gathering.

Stephen StewardStephen Steward (WBRC)

Even when approached by strangers, he extended a warm welcome as if greeting old friends. To Steward, these individuals, regardless of their familiarity, represented the lasting impact Kelli had on her community.

“The immense love that my dear wife inspired from diverse individuals… It’s truly astonishing, the array of unfamiliar faces who came to show their affection for my dear wife.”

Kelli’s passing was announced through a heartfelt Facebook post on February 4, sparking an outpouring of condolences across social media platforms and beyond.

“People still reach out to her phone, expressing how much they miss her. And I’m at a loss!” Stephen remarked with a smile. “It’s incredible.”

Stephen Steward and son FinnStephen Steward and his son Finn (WBRC)

While the community’s display of support for Kelli is overwhelming, Steward remains unsurprised by the profound impact his wife had in ensuring every living being found love and a home.

“She would get emotional each time a cat found a new home from the cat cafe,” Steward recalled. “On her phone, she meticulously recorded the names of the individuals, and the cat, and even years later, she would follow up on them, asking, ‘How is Bobo?’”

When asked how he envisions Kelli being remembered, Stephen struggled to control his emotions.

“Honestly, she was dedicated to caring for every being, every creature, and she wished for everyone to be nurtured. She dreamed of all finding a loving sanctuary. I cannot express enough my appreciation for the overwhelming love and kindness shown by everyone.”

While Gatos & Beans remained closed for the memorial, Steward confirmed that it would continue to operate to honor his late wife’s legacy of advocating for animal welfare.

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