Birthdays mean body art for Janesville senior

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Thursday, December 6, 2007
— Judy Henke sat down to dinner with her husband and two friends to celebrate her 71rst birthday a year ago.

“Well, what did you do today?” her friend Sue asked.

“I got a tattoo,” Judy answered.

“They all just sat there,” Judy said this week while sitting in a tattoo parlor preparing to get her second.

“They were speechless.”

While more and more older people are getting tattoos for the first time, it’s still unusual to see someone in her 70s get a first, said tattoo artist Holly Kubiak of Diamond Ted’s.

Growing up, Judy recalls that tattoos were taboo. About the only person she knew who had one was her uncle, and he had been in the service.

But the Janesville resident thinks they can be beautiful.

Her husband, Fred, doesn’t see the point and really doesn’t like to talk about it.

“He still thinks it’s dumb, stupid. But we’re still married and all that stuff,” Judy said.

One daughter thinks it’s disgusting. But two other children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren think it’s cool.

Right after Judy’s tattoo, the couple attended a family wedding reception in Milwaukee.

“And my husband says to me, ‘Did you tell Delores what you did?’ And Delores says, ‘No, what did you do, Judy?’

“And so, I had to show her.”

Soon, everybody at the wedding was flocking around. The younger set gave her high five’s.

Judy didn’t make the decision to get a tattoo lightly.

She studied tattoo designs.

She asked Kubiak if skin ever gets too old for a tattoo. She was assured it doesn’t. (Plus, you don’t have to worry what it will look like when you get old.)

Judy chose her design from a greeting card. She didn’t want to wear one someone else had.

Even now, she forgets about the tattoo and, as she gets out of the shower, sees it in the mirror and is struck anew by its beauty.

This week, Judy brought in gift certificates from family members to get her second tattoo: a larger floral design with a hummingbird.

She’ll wait for her 73rd birthday to connect the two designs.

Judy doesn’t have a story about why she gets her tattoos.

“Everyone who walks into Miami Ink, they all have a story to tell,” she said. She was referring to the television show that features people getting tattoos.

“I have a daughter who’s not here. I don’t need to have a tattoo (to remember her.) I just wanted something just for me.”

Somewhere private, up on her shoulder where no one else could see it.

“Now the whole world’s going to know about it,” she said.

Judy is a bit uncomfortable about getting ink for her ink after a reporter found out about her tattoos.

“What are the people in my church going to say?” she asked.

Would Judy ever consider getting a piercing?

Judy shuddered, and said she draws the line at her pierced ears.

“Now that was a traumatic experience,” she said.


Tattoo demographics have shifted as more older people get body art, said Ted Anderson of Diamond Ted’s Tattoo and Body Piercing.

Anderson has operated Diamond Ted’s for 41 years.

Anderson and tattoo artist Holly Kubiak said they see several reasons for the change:

-- Repeat customers are adding to their themes.

-- The taboo against tattoos is fading.

-- More older people are buying motorcycles, and apparently tattoos are part of the purchase agreement.

-- Older people who always have wanted a tattoo get to the point where they don’t care what others think.

-- Older people come in with their children to get tattoos—kind of a family thing.

Last updated: 11:52 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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