Korcazk Ziolkowski (1908 – 1982)

While blasting away tons of granite at the Mountain, Ziolkowski found time to create other remarkable pieces of art. In 1951, he carved “Wild Bill” Hickok out of Crazy Horse granite as a gift to Deadwood South Dakota; in 1962, he gave a mahogany sculpture of Chief Henry Standing Bear to President John F. Kennedy.

Public donations have always funded the project. When he began the project, Korczak had $174 to his name. Twice turning down $10 million government grants, Korczak asked, “Why should a memorial to the American Indian be financed by the very government that broke its treaties with the Indians and turned its back on all its promises?” He said it was the collective experience of the difficult first half of his life that prepared him for Crazy Horse and enabled him to prevail over the financial hardships and racial prejudice he encountered in trying to create an Indian memorial in the Black Hills.

Knowing he would not live long enough to finish the Crazy Horse Memorial, Korczak and Ruth spent three years creating three books of detailed plans for the memorial’s completion. He worked on the Mountain for 35 years – until his death on October 20, 1982, at the age of 74. He is buried in a tomb that he and his sons blasted from a rock outcropping near the foot of the mountain. For the tomb door he wrote his own epitaph and cut it from three-quarter inch steel plate. It reads:

KORCZAK
Storyteller in Stone
May His Remains Be Left Unknown

 


Ruth Ziolkowski died on May 21, 2014 at age 87.

Their children keep the dream alive as progress continues. When finished the memorial will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. It will be taller than the Washington Monument, and dwarf the four heads at nearby Mount Rushmore. On June 3, 1998, the fiftieth anniversary of the first dynamite blast, Crazy Horse’s face was dedicated.

Korczak’s dream continues, and the face of Crazy Horse now gazes out over his people’s’ sacred Black Hills.

“When the legends die, the dreams end;
When the dreams end, there is no more greatness.
Don’t forget your dreams.”
Korczak Ziolkowski

 


Sources:
Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation
Robert A. Reiser, The Learning Family
Tom Heuerman, Self Help Magazine
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