Sioux Falls, SD
She became the human face behind a monument of stone, but her dedication to the Crazy Horse monument is not all Ruth Ziolkowski will be remembered for.
"I think the one thing we don't want to get lost in all this is of all the many things that Ruth has done and accomplished, we want people to remember that she was also a champion for hunger," Feeding South Dakota Executive Director Matt Gassen said.
In her lifetime, Ziolkowski helped serve over two million meals in Western South Dakota, and she was able to do that by using what was at her disposal; the monument.
"To get into the Crazy Horse Memorial, you can get in for free with a number of cans of food. During the Volksmarch, five cans of food will get you in so you can do the walk to the monument," Gassen said.
Her efforts in the battle against hunger were recognized by more than just Feeding South Dakota. In 2006, the CEO of Feeding America, Robert Forney, visited South Dakota and took a trip to see Crazy Horse. It was there that he met Ziolkowski. After that meeting, Forney became a strong supporter of the Crazy Horse Memorial. It was also the first and only time a Feeding America CEO has visited the state.
"She partnered with us so many years ago and realized that she wanted to help us in our efforts to feed hungry South Dakotans. She believed in the people of South Dakota," Gassen said.
Even though Ruth's legacy will be tied closely to the Crazy Horse monument, Gassen wants everyone to know her overall impact to the fight against hunger as well.
"For the tens of thousands of lives that she helped by providing food too, it's important they also remember that she was a hero to the hungry," Gassen said.
Gassen will always remember Ziolkowski as a deeply-caring person with a warm heart, and he hopes the families she helped along the way will remember her the same way.