Matron gone, but the dream will live on
Published: Thursday, May 29th, 2014
The Matron of the Mountain, Mrs. Z, is gone, but the legacy built by Ruth and Korczak Ziolkowski and their family will long endure. Our condolences are extended to the family on the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Since the sculptor’s death in 1982, Ruth has been the driving force behind the largest sculpture in the round in the world. She died late last Wednesday night, just a month shy of her 88th birthday.
It all began when Korczak started his career as a professional artist at West Hartford, Conn. He traveled to the Black Hills assisting Gutzon Borglum with the carving of Mt. Rushmore during the summer of 1939.
In 1947, Korczak moved to the Black Hills to begin searching for a suitable mountain to carve his sculpture of Chief Crazy Horse at the invitation of Chief Henry Standing Bear and elders of the Lakotas.
Since June 3, 1948, Custer and Hill City area residents have had the privilige to observe the slow, but steady progress on the immense mountain carving. To be sure, there were many skeptics in the beginning who thought Korczak was biting off a lot more than he could chew. Some thought he was more than a bit overly optimistic.
In 1950 Korczak and Ruth Ross, who was a volunteer at the monument, were married. They were to work side by side for the next 32 years while raising and schooling their 10 children on the grounds.
Six of those nine living children are still involved in some capacity at the mountain or in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. (Anne died a little over three years ago at the age of 55). This fact alone should ensure that the great work begun by Korczak some 66 years ago will continue until it is finished.
Family members and generous donors, like philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, will be sure to see that work continues until the enormous project is completed. Last September, Sanford offered another of his $10 million challenges that matches every dollar raised. You just can’t find better friends than that.
For more than six decades, Ruth and her family entertained visitors to the mountain. For the past several decades she could be seen walking the grounds in her patented moccasins and colorful long house dresses. She was quick to flash a genuine welcoming smile and extend her hand for a friendly shake.
Mrs. Z and Crazy Horse were great supporters of the Native American Journalism Workshop which they hosted for 13 years. Over 100 Native American students interested in the field of journalism came to the conference each year where they learned basic journalism skills from a bevy of volunteer professional newspaper writers, editors and photographers.
Ruth not only was happy to host the annual event on the Crazy Horse grounds, she also made herself available for interviews by the students each year. She took an active interest in the skills the students were learning and held a press conference at the end of each three-day session. She went so far as to offer annual scholarships to top Native American students pursuing the field of journalism. Mrs. Z was a true friend to those of us in the newspaper profession.
Each year she would encourage students to follow their dreams just as Korczak did during his lifetime. Several students did go into the field of journalism. We know the pursuit of Korczak’s dream will continue on the mountain.
More than anything, since 1948 Crazy Horse has grown to be a huge tourism draw for the state and nation. People from all over the country and those from various other nations can be found at the monument on a daily basis. The sculpture in progress and Indian Museum of North America are now major must-see attractions in this part of the country.
On a personal note, we will miss phoning the monument from time to time and chatting briefly with Ruth who often answered the phone herself. We know her and Korczak’s dream lives on in the persons of her family members and management team she has set in place.
Click Here To See More Stories Like This