Ruth Ziolkowski, leader of the Crazy Horse Memorial efforts, died Wednesday at age 87. Ziolkowski was placed in hospice care in April, only one month after being diagnosed with cancer.
When her husband, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, passed in 1982, she took over leadership of the memorial. “Ruth Ziolkowski, the remarkable matriarch of Crazy Horse Memorial, was loved and admired by millions who were inspired by her example to ‘never forget your dreams,” said Jack Marsh of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. “Ruth, as much as anyone, advanced reconciliation between the Native and non-Native people of the United States.”
President of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Laurie Becvar has made it clear that there will be no one person taking over for Ruth Ziolkowski. “There’s no one successor or two successors in this story,” said Becvar. “The succession is the executive management team and there’s three of us. We’re all equal players.” The team will focus primarily on the mountain sculpture, the American Indian Museum, and the Indian University of North America, all considered part of the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Unfinished Crazy Horse monument less than 10 miles from Mount Rushmore pic.twitter.com/jsHJPtseMe
— Uberly (@BeUberly) November 18, 2013
The mountain sculpture, carved into the Black Hills in South Dakota, is the most well-known portion of the memorial, as much for its beauty as for its state of incompletion. Korczak Ziolkowski began carving in 1948 and some 66 years later only the face of the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse and some portions of the horse are complete. The plan for the finished statue shows Crazy Horse astride his horse, pointing east.
The project, funded only by donations and income from visiting tourists, does not have a projected date of completion. Korczak Ziolkowski’s last words to his wife touched on the importance of continuing the project but without being careless or rushed: “Crazy Horse must be finished. You must work on the mountain — but slowly, so you do it right.”
The surviving family, along with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, remain involved in the project and are committed to the Ziolkowskis’ vision. “There was a thought by the general public after Korczak died that the mountain would fail,” said foundation board chairman John Rozell, “And I’m sure there are naysayers today that will say the same thing. But it will not. It will continue.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons