When Ruth Ross married sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1950, her husband's vow also became hers: to honor American Indians by carving the likeness of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse into a granite mountain in the southern Black Hills. That promise is why Ruth Ziolkowski, who turns 80 on Monday, is now in charge of the world's largest mountain carving -- one that is still being carved out after more than half a century.
She didn't set out to run a multimillion-dollar operation that spans a 1,000-acre complex, draws more than a million visitors a year and employs 176 -- including seven of the couple's 10 children and several grandchildren. But after her husband's death in 1982, Ziolkowski felt she had to carry through on his commitment.
''It's not a one-person deal. I'm the one that gets all of the accolades and all of the glory and it doesn't need to be that way,'' Ziolkowski said. ''This is a team effort. It wouldn't be here if we didn't have a lot of great people.''
Sunday marked the 130th anniversary of the battle that made Crazy Horse famous. On June 25, 1876, the Oglala Sioux war chief led the attack by hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors against Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry, killing Custer and more than 200 of his troopers at the Battle of Little Bighorn.