Korczak Ziolkowski

Korczak Ziolkowski

Birth
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 20 Oct 1982 (aged 74)
Sturgis, Meade County, South Dakota, USA
Burial Custer, Custer County, South Dakota, USA
Plot Buried in a tomb at the base of the mountain
Memorial ID 9472300 · View Source
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Artist. He is most known for his sculpture of the Oglala Lakota warrior chief Crazy Horse in the Black Hills, Custer County, South Dakota, a project he began in 1948 and worked on until his death in 1982. The “Crazy Horse Memorial” is still not completed, with the work carried on by his family members after his passing. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he was orphaned at age one, was never adopted, and spent 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 sixteen, he worked odd jobs putting himself through Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts 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 Polish composer and statesman 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 sculptor Gutzon Borglum in the carving of the Mount Rushmore Memorial in the Black Hills. His artistic career was interrupted when he enlisted in the United States Army after the start of World War II, where he was wounded in action during the Normandy invasion landing on Omaha Beach, France on June 6, 1944. The defining moment in his life came in the postwar. Korczak accepted an invitation from the Lakota 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. During his years working on the monument, Korczak jeopardized his health, sustaining 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 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 include 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.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Peterborough K
  • Added: 17 Sep 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9472300
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Korczak Ziolkowski (6 Sep 1908–20 Oct 1982), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9472300, citing Thunderhead Mountain, Custer, Custer County, South Dakota, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .