In my last two columns I introduced you to all our Security Directors and so I am going to continue introducing you to a lot more of our many volunteers. In this column I would like to introduce you to our Convention Coordinators (my right hand crew) - Bill Mokry, Jack Adams, Joeri D’Hondt. Also, Donna Grau and Don Makofske.
Hope you enjoy….
July 2, 1938 – July 29, 2007
Bill’s first National convention was the 1981 Reno convention. He said the only reason he missed the first one in Denver in 1979 was that he found out about it too late to be able to take his vacation at that time. However, he never missed another one until his untimely passing. His last National was Seattle in 2007.
Leroy Minugh introduced me to Bill and told me that I should get him to volunteer to help with the convention. So, I asked him if he’d like to give us a hand at the registration table. He agreed right off the bat helping me to sign up new registrations and also helping to sign people up for the contests.
In 1983 at the Phoenix, Arizona convention I paired Bill up with Jack on Saturday morning because one of the people that had volunteered to be in that spot couldn’t make it as he set up an appointment to be tattooed so I had to find someone to take this place. I immediately remembered that Jack Adams had said he would like to help out more. Now I did know that neither Bill nor Jack were fond of each other, but I felt, “what the heck” how bad could it be? One collects the entry money and the other stamps the hand they didn’t have to be buddy-buddy to do that. But… as it turned out they became very good friends from then on.
Bill also counted ballots, made out the winners’ cards for me for Friday nights award banquet, gave out the 50/50 raffle tickets to our sellers and then helped count the money for that. Bill sat at the registration desk every day from Wednesday through Sunday from the opening of each event till we closed. He even volunteered to sleep on a cot in the Tattooing room on Saturday night so the booth holders did not have to break down their booths – this way they could leave their stuff right there without worrying about anything disappearing. In other words, Papa Smurf worked the conventions 24/7 for us because even if nothing was going on, he was on call to be there for us.
The last couple of years before his death, his health started failing due to diabetes and his not taking care of himself. Bill was a very stubborn man and when told by his doctor to lose weight and start doing exercises, he felt he knew better than the doctor. He gained more weight and wound up in a wheelchair at the conventions.
Bill volunteered and attended 27 NTA Conventions. The first one Reno 1981 his last one Seattle 2007. I guess he knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer because in, I believe, 2005 Bill told me to keep an eye on Joeri as a replacement for him since he didn’t know how many more conventions he was going to be able to be at. Sadly, we lost Bill “Papa Smurf” Mokry on July 29, 2007 – he was 69 years old.
Bill loved tattoos so much he ordered Lbs. and Lbs. of our TN 14 Powder Blue ink. I asked him what was he doing with that much blue ink – I kidded and said what are you doing eating it? He said “maybe!” Well he had Leroy Minugh tattoo all the empty spots around his tattoos to give him a complete body suite and that is how he got the nick name of Papa Smurf 😊 He was truly the original BLUE MAN before they were even around. He is truly missed by those who got to know him.
The following is Jack’s story in his own words:
Back in the Dark Ages before cell phones were common (1982), I went to my first National Tattoo Convention where I met Flo. I enjoyed myself so much that I told Flo that I would be willing to help out the next year (Phoenix, 1983). She said great, that I was “hired". That year, I handed out registration packets. On Saturday morning she came and found me because she was short someone for the registration (day guests) table. She put me with Bill Mokry who was someone I was not fond of at the time. That changed by the end of the Phoenix convention. It all worked out. Around November of that year, she called to inform me that she put me down for 1984 in Philadelphia. That was the year of the blizzard. Next year she informed me that she "volunteered" me for the Seattle Convention. After that convention, she informed me that I was now "voluntarily" permanent.
I worked with Bill Mokry until he became ill in 2007 and died. That was the year Joeri D’Hondt took over Bill's responsibilities. We worked together until the last National convention in Orlando in 2018.
In 2012 Joeri and Amber Schoch got married in NYC the week after the Cincinnati convention. I attended the ceremony and stayed with Jen and Bob Carmean, and Rich and Heidi Ives were there also. Another great time because of NTA. We had some great times and some crazy times.
That made 36 consecutive years of volunteering for National and 37 continuous National conventions, and I enjoyed the entire time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
This is my (Flo) version of how it all came about hahaha:
Yes, we did meet at the 1982 National Tattoo Convention in McLean, Virginia. It was his first NTA convention and he wasn’t sure of what to expect and he started asking me a lot of questions as to what National was all about. We had a genuinely nice and long conversation and he said I would probably forget who he was and that I definitely would not remember his name – I told him I would remember his name. Well I did remember his name the next day but I don’t believe I ever told him how I remembered his name as like he said, “You have met a lot of people today and there is no way you can remember everyone’s name.” At the time he had studs up along the outer rim of his ear that looked like a J to me and so I associated that J to his name JACK. 😊😊
The rest of his story is all true – I did volunteer him in the beginning but… I didn’t have to after the first couple of them. And he and Bill Mokry worked the registration desks throughout the entire convention on every day of the convention. And, Yes, Joeri took over Bill’s position after his passing. So yes, Jack attended 37 conventions and worked 36 of them. He manned the registration tables handing out the packets at first on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but then he and Bill switched over and took care of the contestant entry forms and put them in the correct contest binders for me to read off the info at the contests. But he didn’t just do those jobs, he also counted ballots, He helped make up the winner’s cards for me to open and read the winners names at the awards banquet. He also helped to count the money for both of our 50/50 raffles (Thursday night’s Uncle Bud Scholarship Fund and Friday night’s Col. Todd Hardship Fund). He helped backstage during the contests on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, he sat at the registration desk from opening to closing collecting the entry fees of non-registered people. On Sunday evening, since he did not attend the roasts of one of our members, he’d go around and collect all the red bag wastes from each booth to put in the spot for the company that would come and collect them on Monday morning. He counted and wrapped the money we collected from each event and listed the amounts and the what for’s so it made my accounting for the convention easier knowing just what each envelope was for and for what day it was collected. In other words, Jack was there or on call 24/7 at the conventions and it was very fortunate for us that he was...
This is Joeri’s story:
With something in my eye...
"In 2003 I went to my first National in St. Louis. Right through the door welcomed and pulled in by my brother Rich Ives, just like he was welcomed a decade before by Terry Wrigley, just a little cheaper (thank you Uncle Bud) as Rich got whiskey and I got a card. Moments later I found myself at the extraordinary hospitality of Laura & JD Rider, a BBQ I will never forget. Due to the vast difference with any convention I had ever been before there was no doubt in my mind one year, I would go back…
In 2004 Flo wheedled me, cunningly, in into the Association. Only in 2005 to be voluntold by Rich, to be inescapably pulled into the Family I grew to love so very much. At first helping my dear friends Jack Adams & Bill Mokry out a little. When Bill became too ill to be able to do what he wanted to do and loved so much he suggested I take over a little and a little and…
Up to the last convention I filled up, never the spot, but the little things Bill used to do together with Jack and all the others that made the Reunion to what it was. At my wedding 2012 to Amber, who was assigned to me the year before, I was surrounded by that very Family: Heidi, Jen, Flo, Jack & Don, Liz, Shannon, … Only after the LA Reunion that felt like a large beautiful wedding reception. It truly gave me everything I hold dear in life. I could not imagine my life without it, without my Family. If only I could do it all over one more time..."
Love you all so very much!
Joeri’s story – Flo’s Version
WOW! Joeri starts out saying… With something in my eye… After reading his story I have something in my eye as well….
True I first met Joeri, a shy but very nice kid from Belgium at the 2003 St. Louis, Missouri NTA Convention. I liked him immediately. He was just a likeable kid and fun to fool with because he would turn red. He didn’t get roped in as a volunteer until the 2005 Miami Beach, Florida Convention and we never let him go after that 😊😊
He says he did a little by little taking over Papa Smurf’s duties, but he doesn’t give himself the credit that’s due him. He watched and took in all the things that Papa Smurf did and when the torch was passed over to him, he ran all the way with it with no looking back.
Joeri manned every registration desk we had signing up the new registrants on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And on Saturday & Sunday he sat at that registration desk again taking the entry for the day fee and stamping hands. He helped put the contest forms into the loose-leaf books for me to read at the contests, he counted ballots and help make out the winners’ cards for me for the awards ceremony on Friday night. He also helped with the 50/50 raffle tickets collecting the money and counting it up. He was the one who took over the sleeping in the tattoo room on Saturday nights, so the booth holders didn’t have to break down their booths. We all kind of nicknamed him “Our Energizer Bunny” because he never slept – really – he never slept – even on Saturday night when he was in the tattoo room he did not sleep he walked the room all night making sure everything was OK. No matter what time of day or night you could find him – sometimes sitting in the hotel lobby (even though he had a room) he just hung out, so he’d be ready if needed.
What I wish to convey here is that these three people were very important to the NTA’s conventions – Like all the Security directors that we have had over the years that we couldn’t have done the conventions without - these three also played a very important role throughout the conventions. So, to Bill Mokry (deceased and missed ever since), Jack Adams and Joeri D’Hondt my heartfelt THANKS for being there for the NTA. We couldn’t have done it without you. – I can’t say THANK YOU enough for all the time you gave over the 39 conventions we had.
There are two other people who have been behind the scenes doing a lot of different jobs to make the NTA and the NTA conventions work as well. They are of course Donna Grau (our daughter) and my husband Don Makofske.
They told me not to include them in this, but they don’t write this column I do and so these are my versions of their stories since they wouldn’t write them for me
Donna not only worked the registration desk on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday She sold the raffle tickets for both 50/50’s and was in charge of the money coming in from the Auction items as to who bought what and for how much. She was in charge of taking care of the ballot boxes during the contests and also helped to count ballots after the contests were over as well. Donna also helped give out the awards on Friday’s Awards Ceremony and did a million and one other jobs at the convention too. But, not only did she work the conventions she also worked at the home office making sure all memberships were taken care of and all convention registration packets where put together and alphabetized so it was easy for those at the registration desk to find everyone’s packets. She helped me pack up all the stuff to be sent to our hosts before the conventions and helped me pack up the stuff that had to be sent back after the convention.
Don also wore a lot of hats during the conventions. In the beginning a few people asked him what his job was for the NTA and he’d say, “My job is to make sure Flo gets to the conventions.” But, in actuality, that was not his only job He would help me set up the tables in the storeroom and put the boxes for the security directors in one spot, the stuff for the registration desks in another spot – the awards on another table etc. etc. He was our first photographer and one of our first videographers. Don used to video the lectures on Saturday and then he’d show them again on Sunday for those who didn’t get to go to them on Saturday. He was the one who lined up all the awards on the tables next to the stage in the Banquet room in the order in which they were given out so there’d be no mistake of giving the wrong plaque to the winners at the Awards banquet. He would hand them to our Award girls to give to the recipients on stage when their names were called out. There were many times when he would do all the wiring for the videoing and I have pictures of him and Red on their hands and knees crawling around the floor setting this up at the roasts taping down the wires so no one would trip on them. There were times that the hotel didn’t use the floorplan we gave them for our function and so Don would check the room out and if it was wrong, he’d get them to change it to the way we wanted it to be. He was our trouble shooter with the hotel if there were any problems, and there were some from time to time and he would get everything straightened out and no one would know anything had happened.
Neither Don nor Donna ever liked being in the spotlight, so they didn’t want to be included in this tribute to our Volunteers. But I would be remiss if I didn’t include them as they too are very important volunteers of the NTA as well – most of you didn’t get to see just how much they were involved. So, I just want to say Thank You to them too for all their help.
[Both Jack & Joeri said that they would like to add a few words of their own about Don & Donna this is what they wrote:]
As one of the volunteers, I would like to point out that we could not have done our jobs without the silent and behind the scenes help of these two fabulous people, Don & Donna. Most Sincerely, Jack Adams.
[And, from Joeri:] For Don, I can only say that he is the quiet force in the background. And Flo, you are like our mother to a lot of us and Don, is like the father. I had so many laughs at the convention with him every year - it is one of the things I miss the most about the convention, it truly is. And, I really love Donna for the warm person she is.
[In our next issue, our “Official” Videographer: Gene Houghton & our “Official” Photographers: Johnny Opland, Richard Todd and Billy Tinney for our 39 NTA Conventions – better known as our “NTA Family Reunions."]
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