Saskatoon

'We're back together': Honouring his dying wishes, wife preserves husband's tattoos

Chris Wenzel may not be here anymore, but the tattoos that covered his body still are.

WARNING: This story contains images that some people may find disturbing

Chris Wenzel, a tattoo artist in Saskatoon, died of heart failure last year. The tattoos that covered nearly his entire body were preserved. (Submitted by Cheryl Wenzel)

Chris Wenzel may not be here anymore, but the tattoos that covered his body are.

Chris, who owned Electric Underground Tattoo in Saskatoon with his business partner and wife of over 20 years, Cheryl, died last year of heart failure. He was 41.

His dying wish was to have his tattoos preserved.

Chris's chest featured a tattoo of two hawks fighting a snake. Hawk was Wenzel's spirit name, his wife said. (Submitted by Cheryl Wenzel)

Cheryl said tattoos were Chris's life. He loved drawing them, and tattooing the clients who visited their shop — he always thanked them for donating flesh for his work. 

Cheryl recently unveiled her husband's preserved tattoos at an event in Saskatoon.

Cheryl Wenzel displayed her husband's preserved tattoos for all to see at the Saskatoon Tattoo Expo, which ran between April 12 and 14. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

"Now that he's home, I feel like we're completed, like we're back together and I'm willing to take him out and finish our journey that we started," Cheryl said.

She said she too would like her tattoos to be preserved when she dies, and it's a tradition she hopes her children carry on.

Cheryl says she hopes to have her tattoos preserved, and she hopes her children and their children do the same. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Cheryl said that the family participated in a sweat ceremony where the Creator appeared to welcome the idea of preserving Chris's skin.

Cheryl said Chris would have loved that his tattoos were preserved.

'Breaking waves'

Cheryl said when she and Chris started tattooing, there was a taboo around what they did.

It wasn't that different when they were looking for a funeral home that would accommodate Chris's wish.

"Back then, it was a voodoo to get tattooed, and now, we're breaking waves for the voodoo of preserving them," Cheryl said. "To keep moving forward, you have to break those waves somehow."

Kyle Sherwood, right, from Save My Ink Forever, was responsible for the preservation process. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

She previously told CBC News that five funeral homes declined her request before she found Mourning Glory Funeral Services.

While many people have been weirded out by the idea of preserving Chris's tattoos, Cheryl said there have also been many people who have told her it was a great idea.

Cheryl sets the record straight with them though and clarifies that it was Chris's idea in the first place.

She said Chris would always ask why he would bother wasting time under the gun if the finished product was just going to be buried with him. She said he would rather see the artwork shared with the world.

"With him, I'd honour his wishes in anyway. He was the love of my life," she said.

About the Author

Bryan Eneas

Web Writer

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he worked in Prince Albert reporting in central and northern Saskatchewan. You can contact him at Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

With files from Alicia Bridges

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