Tattoo

Chuck Wright and his daughter Chelsea Wright pose inside The Screaming Needle Tattoo Shop in Geistown on Tuesday, May 15, 2021.

Chelsea Wright recalls strangers coming to her house when she was a little girl.

“My father did tattoos in our home,” she said. “Then I told them how to take care of the tattoo.”

Ignoring the 5-year-old, the person would turn to Chelsea’s father, Chuck Wright.

“When the person looked at me," he said, "I said, 'She’s right.' ”

But doing tattoos in the home, came to an end. One day Chelsea’s birthday, strangers came to the Wright home wanting tattoos.

Chuck’s wife Laura was not happy about the intrusion.

“She said, we still need a normal life away from all this.”

This led Chuck Wright to open a tattoo shop – The Screaming Needle – in Geistown.

Little Chelsea believed the shop’s name referred to “the sound of the tattoo machine.”

Wright, a Windber resident, said the name goes back to his army days.

“I was stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky,” he said. “It's home of the 101st Screaming Eagles (Airborne Division).”

Chelsea, now a 23-year-old Portage resident, said she didn’t see herself in the tattoo world at first.

“I was prissy,” she said. “I was into clothes. I was into my looks.”

But a tragedy led Chelsea to follow in her father’s profession. In February 2017, at 18, Chelsea was in a car accident. She says she was ejected from the vehicle, but had no broken bones. She suffered torn ligaments and road rash all over her body.

After the incident, Chelsea said she could not go back to her waitressing job, so her father offered her a position.

“She came and did secretarial work,” Chuck said.

Working in the shop, Chelsea's duties soon expanded.

“I’ve always been a drawer,” she said. “I started drawing tattoo outlines.

“I even drew tattoos that people wanted but couldn’t find.”

When Chelsea expressed an interest in tattooing, Chuck was “surprised.”

He said: “I didn’t know any other female tattooist. Chelsea entering the business made me excited.”

Chelsea admits she didn’t know of any female tattoo artists except for reality TV star Katherine Von Drachenberg – known as Kat Von D. – when Chelsea come across her in her father’s tattoo magazine.

Today, Chelsea is quite familiar with local female tattoo artists.

“At Lemon Bomb Tattoo, Devon Hemlick does a lot of nice traditional tattoos,” Chelsea says. “Georgie May Carnevalli, her realism tattoos are picture-worthy and stunning.”

Chelsea said her tattoo styles include traditional roses and butterflies, and grey work.

When asked what advice he would give to fathers whose daughters want to be tattoo artists, Chuck immediately said: “It’s a job they can make a living off of.

“I taught my daughter my trade – without her going to college and acquiring debt.”

Chuck hopes his daughter will take over the business some day.

Chelsea will be going on maternity leave soon. But once she comes back, she plans to get a tattoo identical to one her father has.

“On my neck, I’m getting the words 'Screaming Needle,' ” she said. “That’s dad’s way of knowing I’m taking over his business.”

Here are some additional stories for Father's Day:

The 'bonus dad'

Beth Gribschaw said she has "a loving father named Mike, and a caring step-dad named Jason Harvey.”

But before the 19-year-old Richland resident saw Harvey as a “bonus dad,” she admited, “I needed time.”

“When Jason married my mom, I was 9 years old,” Gribschaw said. “He represented a change in my life. I was scared.”

Harvey said he married Beth’s mother when he was 37. But he was aware of the stepparent role.

“My stepfather Bill married my mother, who had three kids,” he said. “Dad made sacrifices for us kids. Most importantly, he was an involved parent. I wanted to follow his example.”

As a youngster, Beth followed one of Jason’s favorite teams – the Pittsburgh Penguins. When she started playing on a travel hockey team, Harvey drove her to practices.

“Those long hours in the car, talking, caused us to bond," she said.

At 13, Gribschaw was the goalie and only girl on a bantam hockey team.

“At first, my teammates wouldn’t shoot the hockey puck very hard,” she said. “After a few games, they noticed I could hold my own.”

Harvey said Beth’s teammates treated her like a “queen.” But some of the opposing players “called her names and took cheap shots with their sticks.”

“But Beth wasn’t even fazed by their rudeness,” he said. “Being focused on the game, I realized how strong she was.”

Beth said: “Jason’s strength is being another stable parent in my life. Most stepparents and stepchildren don’t get along. Jason and I love each other and respect each other.”

Child’s best interest

Liz McGregor jumps right into things. But her father Tom Menna – a certified master scuba diver – makes the first splash.

“At 13, I became a certified diver,” McGregor said.

When McGregor’s father got involved with directing the musical "Dreamgirls" for the NAACP, she auditioned.

“Liz was in high school.” Menna said. "She was cast in the chorus. She was the only white girl in the show.”

Menna, a Boston native, earned a theater degree at Syracuse University and has directed professionally. He met Liz's mother at the Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown “and stayed in Johnstown.”

Menna, a Ferndale resident, is a special education paraprofessional for Ferndale School District. He also has a home-based business, Menna Pool Services. He volunteers his time “to any charitable cause he can get involved in,” McGregor said.

McGregor, a Roxbury resident and CASA program director at Beginnings Inc., recruited her father to volunteer.

“He has a knack for working with the you,” she said.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Menna said.

As a volunteer, he saw “Liz’s persistence in working with the children. To help them to survive and thrive. Getting them to look beyond their own circumstances.”

A CASA volunteer advocates in court for abused and neglected children. The volunteer visits the child twice a month in their home, and speaks to adults involved in the child’s life – such as teachers, foster or biological parents – and gives a written report that’s submitted to the judge, in regards to what’s is believed to be in the child’s best interest.

In Menna’s three years as a volunteer, “Dad has advocated for 12 children,” McGregor said.

Interestingly, Tom didn’t champion Liz to be a popsicle for the Polar Plunge. Participants raised money for the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Winter Games, by jumping into the cold waters of the Quemahoning Dam.He splashed right in.

“Being in water at 32 degrees should be Liz’s choice,” Menna said. “As for me, I am a young, stupid 61-year-old.”

Before Liz married her husband Dustin, Menna asked him to plunge. McGregor said seeing her father spend an hour every year in the freezing water “never gave me a reason to jump in myself.”

Once the Polar Bear Plunge transitioned to Chillin’ for Charity and supported additional local nonprofits, as the director of CASA, McGregor had to became a frozen treat.

In 2018, Liz’s father waited in the wintry water.

“I didn’t know if Dad was happy to see me, or if he was just cold. As I joined dad in the water, she said, “he couldn’t help but smile.”

Cowboy hat, flannel shirt

Lisa Mayko’s father, Vincent LaBuda, passed away on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. On his anniversary date, the West End resident finds comfort in her mother’s words.

“Being Catholic, mom said, ‘If a person passes away on a patron saint day, the deceased is in the presence of that saint,’ " she said.

But Mayko said she feels closest to her father when she’s out in nature. The LaBudas were a camping family – including her mother Georgetta "Georgie" and her older sister, Toni.

“We visited Shawnee State Park, Cook Forest and Noels Campground,” Mayko said. “But I remember visiting Prince Gallitzin State Park the most.”

Mayko said her father’s usual camping attire was a cowboy hat and a flannel shirt. His mustache/beard reminded her of “actor Dan Haggerty” – who played the leading role in the film and television series ‘The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.’

“But Dad had the heart of Charles Ingalls,” she said, referencing the character father on the American television-drama ‘Little House on the Prairie.’

Mayko said her father put his family first, taught by example, and had an unwavering faith in God.

“On camping trips, Dad was the leader of our pack,” Mayko said. “Under his direction, we worked as a family to prepare the campsite.”

Dad gathered and chopped wood. The girls gathered water and mom cooked. Despite the LaBudas' camping getaways, Vincent made sure his family attended Mass.

“Dad took us to outdoor Mass,” she said. “About 50 families gathered in lawn chairs and listened to the priest. That’s when I saw the relationship between God and nature.”

One of Mayko’s favorite memories of her father is walking on a trail as she listened to him talk about nature.

“Dad explained different trees, like oak and hemlock," she said. “Hemlock is the state tree of Pennsylvania.”

Her father spoke of animal tracks (deer and raccoon) and how to safe-guard themselves against snakes.

"When a tree lays on a trail, step on top of the fallen tree, and look on the other side for snakes. If you step over the tree, the snake has an opportunity to bite you.”

Mayko credits her father for passing along the love of camping to her family.

“My husband, Brian, wasn’t a camper, he camped maybe once,” she said.

Early in their relationship, Lisa wondered: How can I be with a guy who doesn’t camp?

But he came around. When the Maykos go camping, they incorporate her father’s traditions.

“He is the reason I still eat mountain pies filled with ham,” she said. “On walking trails, my family and I will stop and take in nature.

“Dad’s also the reason we have our version of Mass.”

LaToya Bicko is a Johnstown freelance writer.

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