The Ziolkowski Family
When he arrived at Crazy Horse, Korczak, almost 40, willingly had dedicated the rest of his life to keeping his promises to the American Indian people. The last thing he expected was to get married and have 10 children. The turn of events made him equally happy and proud, and Crazy Horse became a family story.
Although he believed in a “do-it-yourself” work ethic, he thought it was carrying it a bit too far the snowy night he had to deliver one of the youngsters. When the doctor could not get to Crazy Horse in time, Korczak delivered his and Ruth’s daughter himself. Several of the children — five boys and five girls — have names reflecting their Polish ancestry of which the Boston-born sculptor was very proud. Korczak kidded that he had made a bargain with Ruth — if she would have the children he would name them! Ruth always said in response that Korczak, "got the worst part".
Later, when there were so many Ziolkowskis in school at one time, Korczak decided the practical thing to do was to open his own school. So he moved a one-room school house to Crazy Horse, where several of the youngsters got their grade school education from a certified teacher. The self-taught sculptor also was a teacher at heart, and he schooled his family in every aspect of Crazy Horse, including the special skills of mountain carving.
The boys grew up helping their father on the mountain, the girls assisting their mother in the ever expanding visitor complex. Everyone helped with the dairy farm, the lumber mill and the multitude of other year-around activities at Crazy Horse, where, since 1947, the construction has never stopped.
As they reached adulthood, the Ziolkowski sons and daughters demonstrated that Korczak and Ruth imparted to their family not only knowledge and skill, but also a deep love of the Crazy Horse dream. All were free to leave, but seven remained involved in the project. The second generation of Ziolkowskis began writing a new chapter of the unique Crazy Horse story when Korczak died October 20, 1982.
The torch was passed, Ruth and her children, who together with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation board of directors, guided Crazy Horse and its ongoing progress. As Ruth said, "He left everything so we can carry on his work, and that's just what we're going to do. We're dedicated to that. His whole life would be wasted if the mountain carving and the humanitarian goals are not completed."
It was Ruth who, after much thought, study and research decided to shift the carving efforts from the horse's head to Crazy Horse's face. A demonstration of Ruth's attention to detail was evident when she responded to a question on when progress would be made on the Mountain after Korczak's passing with: "When I am satisfied we have verified all the measurements-and not until then-we will proceed. And we will proceed very deliberately, cautiously and carefully-to protect personal safety as well as the Mountain. Korczak would have it no other way." This decisive move allowed the public to see progress after Korczak and renewed faith in the project. Ruth also oversaw a time of great expansion to the offerings at Crazy Horse Memorial. Under her direction, the new wing of the INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA® was built, which now houses over 11,000 Native American artifacts from tribes across North America. She also saw to the completion of the NATIVE AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL CENTER®, which allows visitors the opportunity to do hands-on activities and interact with American Indian artisans. Ruth was instrumemtal in starting The INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA® Summer Program in 2010 which is continuing to further the educational efforts of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ruth was a dreamer who had the determination to make those dreams come true. "You can't just have the dream. You've got to work for that dream...This is a team effort. If wouldn't be here if we didn't have a lot of great people."-Ruth Ziolkowski, 2006
On May 21, 2014 the Ziolkowski matriarch Ruth Ziolkowski passed away. Ruth's passion, persistence, vision and leadership was and will always be an inspiration to us all. Ruth was the face of hospitality at Crazy Horse Memorial for over 60 years. In that time she made many friends which she was always truly appreciative of. Ruth once said, "I am so grateful for all the friendships created over many, many years and the kindness shown me. The friends we make are one of life's true treasures and I am richly blessed beyond my greatest dream." It is now up to the Ziolkowski children and grandchildren with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation board of directors and staff to continue the great progress of the Crazy Horse dream.
This remarkable family is motivated by their individual and collective dedication, determination and courage to carry on Korczak’s work. They are supported by his great faith and confidence in them, schooled by his years of instruction, toughened by his example and uplifted by his sense of humor. They also are guided by his detailed plans and scale models and inspired by his life, vision, legacy, and most importantly, by what he often referred to as “the beauty and justice of the Crazy Horse dream.”