Ruth Ziolkowski became the driving force behind the Crazy Horse Memorial after her husband, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, died in 1982. Her perseverance paved the way for steady progress on the carving, all the while carrying on Korczak's refusal to accept any federal funding to complete the project.
Ruth Ziolkowski's death was not unexpected. But her passing leaves a void in the shadow of the carving to which she devoted much of her life.
Grief embedded in granite. People at the Crazy Horse Memorial mourn the death of its longtime leader Ruth Ziolkowski.
"There's a pall, there's a quiet and there's a loss. It's very, very evident. I just had chills in so many different areas when I walked around seeing the movie and talking. She just came across so warm and beautiful and it's definitely a tremendous loss for this area," Jolene Emery of Chicago, Illinois said.
Under Ziolkowski's guidance, the family completed Crazy Horse's face, making the majestic profile an instantly-recognizable feature of the southern Black Hills landscape. Just like her husband before her, Ruth Ziolkowski made sure a long-range plan was in place to keep the project in the public eye long after she's gone.
"Ruth's life story is one of faith and fortitude. She truly lived each day, not just during her illness but every day. She lived it with gratitude, real sense of purpose. To her, it wasn't work, it was a way of life," family spokesman Rollie Noem said.
The management team tasked to see Crazy Horse Memorial grow and thrive in the years ahead will build upon Ziolkowski's legacy that will last as long as the mountain, itself.
Crazy Horse Memorial will not change its hours of operations in the aftermath of Ruth Ziolkowski's death. Noem says she would have wanted it to remain open.