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Mo Richard, beloved Jackalope Tattoo artist, dies suddenly at age 31

Mo Richard and husband Sam. Mo, 31, died unexpectedly Sunday after collapsing at work.

Mo Richard and husband Sam. Mo, 31, died unexpectedly Sunday after collapsing at work. Blkk Hand

Jackalope Tattoo, an all-woman ink studio in the Nokomis neighborhood, canceled all its appointments and kept its doors closed on Monday.

Artist Mo Richard, 31, had collapsed in the shop Sunday afternoon. Paramedics weren't able to revive her. Later, the Medical Examiner's Office determined Richard's cause of death was an aortic aneurysm.

The Jackalope crew, led by owner Bambi, spent the day calling Mo's clients and remembering the artist known for her poetic line work, geometric flourishes, and witchy designs. The Jackalope women had planned to keep tattooing together until they were gray old ladies. No one expected Mo, who seemed perfectly healthy, to stand up from a job and suddenly lose consciousness.

"I loved her instantly," says fellow Jackalope artist Jamaeka Elizabeth. "She had one of the most laid-back personalities, made everyone really comfortable. She was easy company, full all around, an amazing, incredibly talented, beautiful soul."

Emi Monson, also of Jackalope, says she could barely find the strength to walk into the shop Monday morning.

"I always told people [Richard's] 'angry' was my 'normal'," Monson says. "You could throw anything at her and she was always optimistic. I can literally hear her voice, laughing in my head."

Mo was born in Richfield, and lived her entire life in the Twin Cities area. She waitressed her way through the University of Minnesota, and met her husband, Sam Richard, in 2012. When he decided to switch careers from sausage-making to programming, and attended "computer bootcamp," she supported them both. The day she died, they had been married exactly two years and 11 months.

When she wasn't working at Jackalope, Mo gardened. She worked on illustrating her own deck of tarot cards. She rescued cats and dogs, and if he'd let her, Sam says, they would have owned "a million" of them. She loved bad action movies and weird horror flicks.

He and Mo used to talk about traveling once they'd saved up enough for a house, Sam says. In their dreams, they'd retire to a plot of farmland where they could take care of elderly animals until they died and arrange rustic weddings out in the country.

"We both have a very morbid sense of humor. We used to tell each other not to die, or 'If you die first, you better come back and haunt me.'" Sam says, laughing as he cries. As of midday Monday, the haunting had not begun yet. "But I haven't been home. Maybe she's waiting for me there."

Monday afternoon, Mo's parents, two elder sisters Meghan Elliott and Katie Rockvam, husband Sam, and best friend Megan Forslin gathered at Elliott's home in Minneapolis to mourn and plan the funeral. They'd filled the mantle with her photographs as they reminisced about the baby of the family, her older sisters' "fairy," who traced obsessively, and whose first imaginative illustrations were of these eerie spider people.

Mo's sisters and father have her art tattooed on their bodies, as do so many strangers, Rockvam says. Pieces of her art to remember her by are literally walking all around the Twin Cities.

"She loved her friends and family to death," Elliott says. "They meant everything to her, and her husband Sam was her soulmate. We’re all going to be lost without her for a while. We’re just happy we had her for as long as we did."