Croft family tattoos in wheeling

TALES OF INDELIBLE INK: Crofts Are ‘Knot’ Your Average Family

Writer’s note: Tattooing has been done for centuries for a variety of reasons. Some cultures tattooed for religious reasons; others for branding, healing or punishment. In other cultures, tattoos signified societal status or were obtained as living souvenirs of visits to foreign lands. Also, once thought of as related to gang membership or prison time served, the art form has become more mainstream only in recent decades.

According to the website History of Tattoos, US citizens now spend 1.65 billion dollars annually at 20,000 plus tattoo parlors around the country. A few other statistics: 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo and 30 percent of all US college graduates have tattoos. Of those looking to get inked, 43 percent want a tattoo with a personal meaning.

That desire to tell a personal story in a permanent manner is the focus of this series. If there’s a special story behind your ink, please contact Ellen at for possible inclusion in upcoming posts.

The “family tattoo” was meant as a gag gift of sorts for the Croft kids’ Christmas. According to mom Jenn, in December 2017, her husband David told their teenagers, David Michal and Emily, that their gift that Christmas would be matching tattoos.

He expected disappointment; instead, he was surprised when the kids responded enthusiastically to the idea. Jenn and David, being the kind of folks who make good on their promises, were left with no choice but to go through with it.


David Croft is an attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle and an Ohio County Board of Education member who has Croatian/Irish/Scottish roots. Jenn Croft is employed in the Business Loan Operations department at WesBanco and traces her family’s history back to Hungary. (Stay tuned — their heritage plays a role in their tattoo story.)

Jenn and David Croft
Jenn and David Croft

The Crofts recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, having married in 1999. Each of them brought a daughter to their marriage. Amber and Taylor have moved away and established adult lives of their own, while David Michal and Emily, the children Jenn and David share together, still reside at home. Emily is a senior at Wheeling Park High School, and David Michal is a freshman at West Virginia University.


After David’s gag gift idea backfired, the family’s discussion quickly turned to tattoo design. They decided to take their time in creating the artwork, particularly because Emily and David Michal were still fairly young. It took a year and a half for the family to bring the artwork to fruition.


The foursome determined that art honoring their family’s heritage would be the general motif. Jenn immediately pictured a colorful Hungarian floral piece for herself. However, after consulting with tattoo artist Sweet Chuck at Hot Rod Tattooing, she decided to go with traditional black and grey coloring. “After Sweet Chuck took a look at a previous tattoo I have, he said that my skin doesn’t hold color well,” shares Jenn. “So, I decided to go with the standard black ink.” The final result is an intricate floral vine on her inner forearm that depicts Hungarian tulips and paprika flowers of varying sizes.

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David decided on a simple, striking trinity knot design. Not only does it reflect his Celtic genes, it also represents the Holy Trinity — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He chose to have it tattooed on his arm/shoulder.

David Michal and Emily each chose a uniquely personal tattoo combining elements of both of their parents’ artwork. Sweet Chuck created a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork for each of them, forging a mash-up of Dad’s trinity knot with components of Mom’s flowering vine. David Michal’s is a masculine piece, etched on his upper chest. Emily’s artwork is more feminine and floral and adorns her upper back/shoulder area.

The family's tattoos, from left: David, David Michal, Emily and Jenn.
The family’s tattoos, from left: David, David Michal, Emily and Jenn.

Sweet Chuck completed the family’s artwork this spring. The Crofts couldn’t be happier with his work and the experience in general.

“It was a nice bonding time for us,” says Jenn. “It wasn’t painful; the endorphins give you a natural high.”

David likens the sensation to the sting felt when drying off with a towel while suffering from a sunburn. Like many others, Jenn and Emily both say they find the tattoo experience a bit addictive and are already planning their next ones, and David Michal has already added to what will eventually become a three-quarter “sleeve” on his arm.

Emily even plans her wardrobe choices around her tattoo, choosing shirts — and even a homecoming dress! — that showcase her fresh ink.

David Michal and Emily awaiting their turns with Sweet Chuck.
David Michal and Emily awaiting their turns with Sweet Chuck.


Jenn and David recently welcomed their first grandchild, Daniel James. “I didn’t want to be called ‘Grandma,’ Jenn sighs. But she was having difficulty choosing a nickname that was fun yet easy for “Little DJ” to pronounce. Until she got her tattoo, that is. “Tulipán (too-lee-pahn) is the Hungarian word for tulip,” Jenn reveals. “So now I’m called ‘Tuli.’”

• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.