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Record-Setter Expects Some Tears As She Abandons Pole-Top Home

March 24, 1988

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Clutching a feline named Pole Cat, Mellissa L. Sanders climbed into the bucket of a hook-and-ladder fire truck and returned to earth Thursday after a record 517 days sitting atop a 43-foot pole.

″My knees are wobbly but I feel great,″ said Miss Sanders, who was embraced by her mother, Mauri Rose Sanders. ″Without the cat, I would never have made it.″

Miss Sanders, 19, broke the world record Feb. 25 when she overtook the 488- day mark set by Mark Sutton of Victoria, British Columbia. She now is in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Her fiance, Keith Seal, 25, of Monterey, Calif., greeted her on the ground. They met after Seal read an article about her effort to raise money for cancer research and telephoned her. They announced their engagement in August, before meeting.

″I’ve been waiting a year for this,″ he said.

About 1,000 people gathered to watch Miss Sanders’ descent from the shack she called home for 1 1/2 years. Some handed her bouquets, others made contributions for her cancer fund-raising efforts.

″All this doesn’t seem real,″ said Miss Sanders’ mother, who herself set a record of 211 days atop a pole in 1959. ″We want her back with us, but honestly it seems like only yesterday that she went up there.″

Miss Sanders said her first activity would be to ″drive around town, then take a good long walk.″

She had said she was proud to have raised $10,000 for cancer research but had hoped to climb down with $100,000. Miss Sanders’ sister, Rebecca, has cancer and has been in remission for four years.

″I’m sure she’ll look back on this with fond memories,″ said Miss Sanders’ aunt Tanya Bowls. ″Maybe she saved a life by doing this. And that’s about all you can ask for.″

Firefighters were on hand to make sure Miss Sanders made it safely to the ground from the three-story shack.

″She’s going to look up and be lonely when she passes by here next,″ said Perry Township Fire Chief David Betzner. ″It’s been her home and when you take someone out of their home - no matter how much they want to go - they’re going to look back with longing.″

Miss Sanders’ 6-by-7-by-9-foot shack was equipped with a plastic kiddie pool, television and a telephone that resulted in regular $300 phone bills. For company she had her cat, Pole Cat.

Before coming down, Miss Sanders admitted, ″There were some real sad times, times that were real hard.″

″But I always knew I would make it, even when I was scared or going through hard times,″ said the Tucson, Ariz., native, who rode out 70 mph winds during a major snowstorm in February.

Seal first contacted Miss Sanders in November 1986. They communicated, but did not meet face-to-face until November 1987.

″Now that she’s getting down we have to start dating,″ said Seal. ″I mean we’re already engaged and we haven’t even gone on a date.″

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