A true taxidermy icon, Henry Wichers Inchumuk of Hot Springs, South Dakota left this world on Saturday, June 16, 2012, 6 days before his 91st birthday. While undergoing cancer treatment, Henry suffered a massive stroke on June 8 and never regained consciousness.
Henry’s passing marks the end of an era, as he was the last of the great 20th century museum taxidermists. His accomplishments were far-reaching and legendary within the taxidermy community.
Henry Wichers Inchumuk became the first individual to receive the World Taxidermy Championships Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20, 2007. Click below to see an edited version of the video presentation from the awards banquet.
When WTC Chairman Larry Blomquist presented Henry Wichers Inchumuk with the very first World Taxidermy Championships Lifetime Achievement Award, the commemorative plaque read: “World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championships Lifetime Achievement Award. Henry Wichers Inchumuk, April 20, 2007, Reno, Nevada. To Henry Wichers Inchumuk, who, during his lifetime, has made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance, that have improved taxidermy and have inspired others to excel.”
At the time of his death, Henry was working with Breakthrough Magazine editor Larry Blomquist on a special autobiographical article about his life. It will be published in the upcoming (Summer 2012) issue of Breakthrough, which will be mailed in early July.
In the hours after his death was made known, friends and admirers from around the world paid their respects on the Taxidermy Net Forum. Words become difficult for me when my heart is troubled, but Mary Krueger eloquently summed up what most of us who knew him felt:
My heart is heavy with sadness and empty with the loss of a man I called my friend. Although I spoke with Inchumuk a few months ago and he told me he would not be in this world much longer, I did not accept that knowledge even with the state of his health and age.
Many did not know of his great spirituality and greater connection to Mother Earth. He took only what he needed from the earth, ate only what his body needed to sustain. He lived a very conscious life. He was aware and respected that which was greater than himself.
We first met in 1988 and shared a bond beyond taxidermy. I spent many visits with my young daughters at his home. They were drawn to his gentle demeanor. His home was adorned with artifacts from every continent he visited while collecting specimens for the museum. Like a grandfather, he shared stories that went with each artifact. He would take priceless primitive drums off of the walls, hand one to each of my daughters and the three of them would dance, drum and chant around his living area. His sharing of his vast knowledge was not limited only to taxidermy. We shared a common interest in Native American life and history. He lived his life with the heart of that of a Native American. He respected the earth, her animals and all her people and their cultures. He lived green long before it was trendy and presently a conscious lifestyle for so many that respect the earth as he had.
I am honored to have one of his mounts in my home that he had gifted to me prior to moving from Arizona.
I am so saddened that I didn’t speak with him as often as I should have. We always assume those we love will always be here with us.
For those of you that didn’t know him personally, you do know him. He is in everything that is good about our industry. He is in the gentle breeze you feel as you walk through the woods. He is in the spirit of all the creatures we love. His body may have left us but his spirit will always be with us.
Inchumuk was larger than a taxidermy icon, he was a true son of Mother Earth.
One of my proudest moments was spending time with Henry at the 2007 World Taxidermy Championships and at the National Taxidermists Association 2005 convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Henry was a one-of-a-kind talent and a motivated artist who placed his desire to accurately recreate the natural world above money, success or fame. His enormous impact on our industry will be felt for many years to come.