Two Presidents, One Pope, & a Noble and Enduring Purpose
When Standing Bear invited Korczak to carve Crazy Horse Memorial, the Lakota Chieftain believed that such a memorial would serve a noble purpose in that it would show the world that the “red man has heroes also.” Likewise, when Korczak accepted Standing Bear’s invitation, Korczak also believed that Crazy Horse Memorial would serve a noble purpose – one of reconciliation between Natives and non-Natives. Finally, when Ruth Ross married Korczak and adopted the dream of the Crazy Horse project, she also took up the noble and enduring purpose of the Memorial. From the very beginning, the humanitarian and educational purpose of Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation — a 501c(3) non-profit organization, has been recognized, supported, and celebrated by tens of thousands of people – Native and non-Native alike – including two popular United States Presidents and one much-revered Pope.
In 1962, Korczak presented President John F. Kennedy with the African mahogany sculpture of Chief Henry Standing Bear, which the sculptor had carved in 1940. This portrait now resides at the JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, a bronze of this carving that Korczak presented to President John F. Kennedy after the Chief’s passing still sits near the entrance of the sculptor’s workshop – reminding all those who enter of the promise that the sculptor made to his Lakota friend and of the humble beginnings of the work on Crazy Horse Memorial. Interestingly, after meeting President John F. Kennedy in 1962, Korczak also created a bronze from plaster bas relief of President Kennedy in 1967. At the request of Ruth Ziolkowski, a bronze of that large bas relief of Kennedy was presented to President Bill Clinton at the White House in May of 1993.
Just six years later, on July 6th 1999, President Clinton visited Crazy Horse Memorial. After receiving the bronze gift, President Bill Clinton accepted Ruth’s invitation and he made a late-night visit to Crazy Horse Memorial. During his time at the Memorial, he was escorted by Ruth and daughter Monique, and he visited with the pair on the viewing deck, while the mountain carving stood illuminated in the background. During his visit, President Clinton memorably commented that he wanted to “congratulate the Ziolkowski family and all those whose vision, energy, and initiative are helping to create this powerful monument” (Korczak: Storyteller in Stone).
Just as Ruth shared her late husband’s work with President Clinton, she also shared the sculptor’s work with the much-revered Pope John Paul II. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II enthusiastically accepted a bronze cast of Korczak’s 1/1,200th scale model of Crazy Horse Memorial at the Vatican in December, 1983. The Most Reverend Harold J. Dimmerling, Bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, presented the gift on behalf of Ruth and the Ziolkowski family. In commenting on the presentation of the gift, Ruth shared that “Korczak would have been greatly honored and humbled by the Pope’s acceptance of his work. Korczak had the greatest admiration for Pope John Paul’s religious and political struggles in Poland before he was elected Pontiff” (Storyteller in Stone)
Some 14 years later, Pope John Paul II would greet Ziolkowski family representatives Monique and her daughter Heidi, eleven-years old at the time, at the Vatican in January of 1997. The pair presented the Pontiff with Korczak’s “PADEREWSKI: Study of an Immortal.” The twice life-size bronze bust of the Polish composer and patriot was cast from the marble original, which won first prize by popular vote at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and led to the invitation from Chief Henry Standing Bear. The bronze was given as a personal gift from Ruth and her family in tribute to the Pontiff’s efforts on behalf of indigenous peoples including American Indians and in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. During the gifting ceremony, the Pontiff observed that Korczak’s name is well-known in Poland, sharing, “People in Poland talk about him.”
This article is the twenty-eighth 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