Ben Mogen walked into his friend’s tattoo shop with a grin on his face.
He was getting his first tattoo, something his daughter, Maddie Mogen, had done just a couple of short years before.
Maddie Mogen, her roommates Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle, and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, were found stabbed to death at the students’ home near the University of Idaho this fall.
In the months since his daughter’s death, the Mogen family has become even more tight-knit, pushing out the noise of the frenzy surrounding the high-profile investigation and subsequent arrest of the man suspected of killing the students.
Instead, the family has spent time together and received tattoos that match the one Maddie Mogen had.
Maddie Mogen and a few of her sorority sisters had received tattoos of angel wings, the symbol of Pi Beta Phi.
“It will be a bond I’ll have forever with her,” Ben Mogen said as he filled out paperwork at the tattoo shop of his friend, Deller Foutz.
The pair had been kayaking not long after Maddie’s death, when Ben Mogen shared the family’s idea to all get angel wings as a way to honor and remember Maddie Mogen.
Foutz, who owns Feel Good Ink Tattoo and Piercing in Spokane Valley, offered his shop.
On Thursday, Mogen was joined by his 72-year-old dad, Michael Mogen, and stepdad Tom Pagliasotti, 73. All three men were getting their first tattoos.
“I never thought I would get one, but this is a good cause,” Michael Mogen said.
The trio aren’t the first in the family to take the plunge. A few weeks ago, Maddie’s mother, Karen Laramie, and more than a dozen family members and friends got their wings.
“It will be one more thing that bonds us together,” Ben Mogen said.
A bit nervous, Ben Mogen pulled up his sleeve and sat down as tattooer Joey Hovaldt placed the angel wings on his arm.
Ben Mogen smiled, “I’m ready.”
“Let’s party,” Hovaldt said as he started the first wing.
A guitar solo played on the radio in the background as Hovaldt quickly inked the second wing. Less than 10 minutes later, Mogen was smiling in the mirror.
“I’m so happy with it,” he said.
Up next was Pagliasotti, who his grandchildren call “Tompa.”
“It’s not nothin’, I’ll tell you that,” he said with a chuckle at the pain of his first tattoo.
Finally, Michael Mogen took his turn.
He remembers his granddaughter as a great sport, always a light at family functions. When she met Goncalves, the girls were like two peas in a pod, dressing up all the time. Pink quickly became Maddie’s favorite color.
Like most moments with Maddie, getting her tattoo was fun, too.
A few comically big grimaces later, Michael Mogen stood up. The three men had their wings, a reminder of not only Maddie, but their strength as a family.
“I don’t know if I could do this alone right now,” Ben Mogen said. “They’re so supportive.”
The Mogen family plans to honor Maddie, whose middle name was May, each year on her birthday, May 25, with Maddie May Day.
“Maddie May lived her life spreading joy to all who knew her,” Rachel Reiswig, her aunt, wrote of the event. “On her birthday, we invite you to carry on Maddie’s legacy and do a random act of kindness in her name.”
Participants can then share their day on social media with #MaddieMayDay.
To help with expenses related to their deaths, a joint GoFundMe for Goncalves and Mogen’s families was set up this fall. So far, it has raised more than $70,000.
The University of Idaho is selling bracelets to raise funds for the Vandal Strong memorial. The university is naming scholarships in honor of each of the students, although details are still being finalized, the school and the Mogen and Chapin families said.
The Xana Kernodle Scholarship Endowment has already been set up at the University of Idaho, where her family encourages people to donate.Sheldon Kernodle, Xana’s cousin, asked the public to continue to remember Kernodle after the probable cause affidavit was released earlier this month.
“Please think about our family and all the other families involved. Find ways to support them as well,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must continue to remember the ones we lost. We have a long road ahead of us.”
A GoFundMe for Kernodle’s family has raised nearly $50,000.
There also are a variety of fundraisers, memorials and scholarships in Chapin’s name. A GoFundMe benefiting Ethan’s brother and sister has raised more than $56,000. The three were triplets.
Chapin’s parents are working with Priest Lake Memorial Gardens to create a memorial for Ethan this spring. Donations in his memory are welcome.
Sigma Chi, where Chapin was a member, created a scholarship in his name that has raised over $116,000.
Hoop for the Valley was recently founded in Chapin’s name to help coach kids interested in basketball throughout the Skagit Valley. Tulip Valley Farms, where Chapin worked, is honoring him with a mix of yellow and white tulips called Ethan’s Smile, which will be available this spring.
To remember all four students, Jessie Frost, a longtime friend of Maddie Mogen’s mother, worked with TaraStiches to create hoodies to remember each student and the four of them together. All proceeds will go to the families.
Each hoodie has angel wings, just like Maddie’s tattoo, with the student’s initial in the center.
Mogen’s, of course, is pink.