Marriage at Crazy Horse Memorial
Marriage at Crazy Horse Memorial
In 1950, two years after the first blast on the mountain, the sculptor continued to work on the cut of the horse’s mane. Also, in that same year, admission to the Memorial was fifty cents, and contributions toward the project averaged five cents per visitor. In addition, in 1950, the site was frequented by an increasing number of visitors, and the studio home stood finished and functional. However, no other development at the Memorial was as historic or would affect the long-range efforts toward carving the mountain as much as that which took place on Thanksgiving Day in 1950. It was on this day that Korczak Ziolkowski and Ruth Ross were joined together in marriage. The two were married in a ceremony inside the log studio home, which Ruth had helped Korczak to build. A small group of family and friends were in attendance to help celebrate the union of the couple. Certainly, on that day, there was much for which to be thankful.
At the time of their marriage, Korczak was 42 and Ruth 24. Ruth had known Korczak for some years, including working with him back in Connecticut. In 1941and 1942, she had been one of the student volunteers to help with Korczak’s Noah Webster statue. She helped mow lawns to raise money for the Noah Webster project, and she also played in the Noah Webster Fife and Drum Corps during WWII, while Korczak was away fighting in Europe after volunteering for the United States Army. Ruth had come west to the Black Hills with Korczak and others in 1947, and she had made the decision to stay – even helping to strip logs that were needed to build the studio home. In the process, the two fell in love and decided to marry. The sculptor, ever mindful of the promise he had made to the Lakota elders, would eventually share with his love that the mountain would have to come first. She did not take issue with this and, in fact, agreed that the promise her husband had made to those Lakota elders and leaders was of primary importance.
With every step that the sculptor put in working on the Mountain, Ruth was always there to support him. They were a team. The year following their marriage, the couple would work together to start drafting three books of comprehensive plans and measurements for all aspects of the mountain carving. Amazingly, these books remain important in the planning that takes place today. Before long, Korczak’s dream became Ruth’s dream. They shared the vision, shared the work, and eventually they also shared ten children – five boys and five girls who were all born at Crazy Horse. Korczak even delivered one of the children himself.
Ruth Ziolkowski, who would eventually become affectionately known as “Mrs Z,” took the lead on the project after Korczak’s passing in 1982. Like her husband before her, she has proven to be determined, incredibly hard-working, and focused on progress. One example of such determination came in 1987. It was in this year, five years after Korczak’s passing, that she convinced the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors to shift focus from the horse’s head, which had been Korczak’s focus, in order to emphasize work on the face of Crazy Horse. Within eleven years of this decision to shift focus, finishing work was completed on the face of Crazy Horse and it was dedicated on June 3rd, 1998, the 50th anniversary of the first blast on the mountain. Under Ruth Ziolkowski’s direction and leadership, not only has the face of Crazy Horse been completed and the carving advanced, but the donor base of the Foundation has expanded, the Museum has grown, and the INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA™ began in 2010. Ultimately, Ruth’s vow to Korczak grew over the years into an unwavering commitment to the humanitarian and educational project that her husband started in order to honor all Native Americans — proving that to this day, in keeping with that special Thanksgiving in 1950, there remains much for which to be thankful . . .
This article is the tenth installment of a periodic chronology that will be published by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation on the history of the Memorial.
By– Dr. Jason Murray for the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation
© Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation