Continued Work on the Mountain: 1979-1982
The period between 1979 and 1982 proved to be a time of notable progress on the mountain, of historic anniversaries, of continued planning, and of a transition in the legacy of Crazy Horse Memorial.
In 1979, Korczak made the first cut into mountain toward the horse’s nose. The sculptor continued this cutting through 1980. Also, in 1980, despite having a fourth back operation to remove a sixth disc one week after his 72nd birthday, Korczak continued to work on the mountain through a mild winter. In 1981, Korczak, with the help of his sons, completed the first road down across the scarf of mountain to under the horse’s nose. During this same year, he also roughed out the horse’s left eye. At the same time, he also constructed a 20-foot steel template for future work on the eye. In 1982, work in front of the horse’s head continued, and Korczak spent his 74th birthday, shortly after a quadruple bypass surgery, supervising his sons and daughters in painting a new outline of the horse’s head on the mountain.
This period also marked several anniversaries for Crazy Horse Memorial. 1979 marked the thirtieth anniversary of Standing Bear’s invitation to Korczak to carve the mountain, while in 1980, Korczak and Ruth celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Also, in 1982, CRAZY HORSE and KORCZAK: The Story of an Epic Mountain Carving by Robb DeWall was published on May 3rd, commemorating the 35th anniversary of Korczak’s 1947 arrival in the Black Hills.
The years between 1979 and 1982 were not only a time of looking back at the Memorial, but also of looking forward. Accordingly, Korczak spent a good deal of effort planning for the future. During this time, the sculptor and his sons built multiple roads for navigation of the mountain. Korczak designed, built, and set in place the 50-foot Black Hills Nature Gates. Also, Korczak and Ruth negotiated a second land exchange in 1982, which increased the land base of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. In addition, numerous collections and artifacts were added to the museum through a steady stream of donations during this time. Finally, during this period, Korczak hand cut steel letters for the legend on the door of his tomb: “KORCZAK—Storyteller in Stone—May His Remains Be Left Unknown.” Accordingly, the most impactful event of this period occurred on October 20th, 1982, when Korczak died unexpectedly at the age of 74.
Korczak’s wife, Ruth and children were with him as he was laid to rest in the tomb that he and his sons had built near the mountain. In keeping with his philosophy of always planning for the future, the sculptor left Ruth with scale models and the three books of comprehensive plans and measurements that they had prepared together for the carving. An outpouring of tributes arrived from throughout the nation and many foreign countries. Korczak was eulogized as a man of “legends, dreams, visions, and greatness,” and at the celebration of life ceremony, American Indian representatives proclaimed that “two races of people have lost a great man.” Refusing to let the dream fade, Ruth Ziolkowski and her large family who had long championed the project, subsequently, expressed their renewed dedication and determination to carry on Korczak’s dream according to his detailed plans. They were determined to make good on the patriarch’s promise to Chief Henry Standing Bear. In this way, 1982 marked the end of one era and the beginning of a new era in the history of Crazy Horse Memorial . . .
This article is the twentieth 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