The tattoos that covered nearly all of a Saskatoon man’s body are being preserved and framed by a U.S. company.

“He used to always say, you know, tattoo ‘til death,” Chris Wenzel’s widow, Cheryl Wenzel, told CTV Saskatoon. “And I think he really took it to a different context!”

Wenzel, who worked as a tattoo artist, died in his sleep on Oct. 29. The 41-year-old, who had ulcerative colitis, had recently been complaining about his chest before his heart stopped.

“He knew he was going to go,” Cheryl said.

But before that, the artist discovered Save My Ink Forever: an American company that preserves and frames the tattoos of the deceased. In a process that takes about three months, one’s skin is surgically excised before a special formula is used to conserve it.

Kyle Sherwood started the business with his father.

“Tattoos, you know, tell a story about a person,” Sherwood told CTV Saskatoon. “And for someone to get something tattooed on them that they’re displaying for life, you know, means something to them… You wouldn’t burn or bury a Picasso and that’s what some of these pieces are.”

With nearly all of Wenzel’s body covered in ink, Sherwood believes that this will be the largest tattoo preservation ever to be done in North America.

A respected tattoo artist and local business owner, Wenzel had been practicing the art since first tattooing his aunt at the age of nine.

“If you know anybody in the city with a tattoo, it’s probably one of his,” fellow tattoo artist Marc Whishart told CTV Saskatoon.

Wenzel, Wishart added, was known for his dynamic, bold and detailed imagery. The two worked alongside one another and learning from Wenzel, Wishart said, has been the best part of his career.

“He was super dedicated to putting his whole energy into what he was doing each day,” he said.

“He was a really, really caring man,” Cheryl added. “He’d do anything for his children and for myself… It still feels like I’m just waiting for him to come home.”

Wenzel’s preserved tattoos will be unveiled at an expo this spring. It remains to be seen where his inked skin will hang after then.

Cheryl, who sports tattoos made by her late husband, promised him that she’ll also have hers preserved after death.

“I know one day I’ll be hanging right there with my husband,” she said.

With a report from CTV Saskatoon’s Angelina King