ZIOLKOWSKI, KORCZAK - Custer County, South Dakota | KORCZAK ZIOLKOWSKI - South Dakota Gravestone Photos


Thunder Mountain Cemetery
Custer County,
South Dakota

Buried in a tomb at the base of the mountain, not open to public.
(Latitude: 43.82625 Longitude: -103.60670)

Mountain Carver, Sculptor, Woodcarver. The Crazy Horse Memorial, the dream of Korczak Ziolkowki, is a work-in progress today and was only partially completed upon his death...the completed head of Crazy Horse measures nine stories tall, the horse's head, will measure 22 stories tall and overall the carving will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. Completion would make it the largest sculpture on earth. Korczak was born in Boston, orphaned at age one, never adopted, spending his entire juvenile years in foster homes. He gained heavy construction skills at a young age working for a tough foster father. Finally on his own at age 16, he worked odd jobs putting himself through Rindge Technical School in Cambridge leading to an apprentice position as a pattern maker in a Boston shipyard. He began to carve wood and by age 20 became an accomplished furniture maker. In 1932, he settled in West Hartford, Connecticut. Korczak interested in the art of sculpturing, studied the masters and created plaster and clay models. With only a coal chisel he carved his first work, a marble, in tribute to Judge Frederick Pickering Cabot, a Boston Juvenile judge who befriended him with encouragement while introducing him to the world of fine arts. He pursued a career in that art selling commissioned sculpture throughout New England and New York. His sculpture of Ignacy Jan Paderewski was honored at the New York World's Fair in 1939, with a first prize award which garnered national notoriety. The same year found him at work in South Dakota assisting Gutzon Borglum in the carving of the Mt. Rushmore Memorial in the Black Hills. His artistic career was interrupted during his military service in World War II which found him part of the Normandy invasion landing on Omaha Beach where he was wounded. The defining moment in his life came in the postwar. Korczak accepted an invitation from the Lacoda Indians to create a Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Starting at age 40, he dedicated the rest of his life to its creation. The first winter was spent in a tent while he constructed a studio-home and a 741 step staircase to the top of the mountain. Three years of solitude was enough and he married a long time friend from New England, Ruth Ross, resulting in a family of ten children. During his years working on the monument, Korczak jeopardized his health...he sustained broken bones, back injuries, four spinal operations, contacted diabetes, became arthritic and suffered a heart attack necessitating quadruple bypass surgery. At age 74, a final heart attack claimed his life. He was interred in a tomb which he and his sons chiseled in stone, years before at a spot which someday will be the base of the giant sculpture when completed. The tomb door is made from three-quarter inch steel plate on which he wrote and cut his own epitaph: "KORCZAK. Storyteller in Stone. May His Remains Be Left Unknown." Although he became most famous as a mountain carver, he was also a noted studio sculptor and member of the National Sculpture Society before his journey to South Dakota. Some of his major works...he spent two years carving the 13 1/2-foot Noah Webster, the famous West Hartford native, conceiver of the all American dictionary. The statue which took two years to sculpt is located in the city proper while the marble model is displayed in the main library. From left over marble, Korczak chiseled the scale model of Crazy Horse which gives one a perspective to the ultimate finished mountain top project and is located on the site. His carving out of granite from the mountain (Thunderhead) of Wild Bill Hickok became a gift to Deadwood, South Dakota and a mahogany sculpture of Chief Henry Standing Bear to President John F. Kennedy. With his own words the dream continues..."When the legends die, the dreams end; When the dreams end, there is no more greatness. Don't forget your dreams."
(bio by: Donald Greyfield)

Contributed on 10/21/09 by cjames202
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Record #: 27173

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Submitted: 10/21/09 • Approved: 10/25/09 • Last Updated: 8/12/15 • R27173-G0-S3

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