It wasn’t long ago that we were wishing a happy birthday to Tama, the adorable feline that was given the title of Ultra Stationmaster by Wakayama Electric Railway. Having just turned 16 in April, Tama, who lived at Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture and delighted travelers on a daily basis, was incredibly young for a stationmaster.

16 is a fairly advanced age for a cat, though, and the sad news has just come that Stationmaster Tama has passed away.

When Tama was born in 1999, Kishi Station was still managed by the now defunct Nankai Electric Railway. The female tortoiseshell cat was taken in by the station’s employees, who even set up a small home for her next to their workplace.

When Nankai Electric, and thus Kishi Station, was absorbed by Wakayama Electric Railway in 2006, Tama’s caretakers made a direct request to Wakayama Electric’s president, Mitsunobu Kojima, that the station’s new owners continue to allow the kitty to live on the premises. Kojima did them one better by promoting Tama to stationmaster.

Given how many people in Japan love animals, trains, and/or cute things, it wasn’t long before Stationmaster Tama became nationally famous, and she’s credited with helping to revitalize the community by drawing visitors from all over Japan. In January of 2014, Tama was promoted to Ultra Stationmaster, making her, in name, stationmaster of all of the company’s stations.

Tama’s tens of thousands of Twitter followers may not have known anything was amiss, as up until just a few days ago, she was continuing to send out messages with her customary greeting of “Nyango!”

However, the elderly cat’s health was, in fact, failing. At 16, Tama’s age was equivalent to that of an 80-year-old human, and on May 19 she underwent medical treatment for nasal inflammation. Just over a month later, she expired from acute heart failure on June 22, and two days later, Wakayama Electric Railway announced to the public that Tama had passed away.

Tama is survived by Stationmaster Nitama, whom the company has been grooming as her eventual replacement.

In honor of Tama’s many years of service, Wakayama Electric will be holding a company funeral, presided over by President Kojima himself, as Kishi Station at noon on June 28. Considering that some 300 well-wishers showed up for Tama’s birthday celebration in April, we imagine the ceremony will likewise draw a large crowd, and also plenty of tears.

Source: Yahoo! News Japan via Jin