The last Mount Rushmore carver has died at 98

Posted at 12:54 PM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 12:54:22-05

The last remaining member of the team that carved the Mount Rushmore National Memorial died on Saturday, according to his wife.

KEYSTONE, UNITED STATES: This June 1995 photo shows Mt. Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum started work on Mt. Rushmore 10 Aug 1927 and continued for 14 years, but only 6.5 years were actually spent sculpting due to harsh weather delays. The presidents were selected on the basis of what each symbolized. George Washington (L) represents the struggle for independence; Thomas Jefferson (2nd L), the idea of government by the people; Theodore Roosevelt (2nd R), for the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs; and Abraham Lincoln (R) for his ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states. AFP PHOTO/KAREN BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Don “Nick” Clifford worked on Mount Rushmore from 1938 to 1940, according to the self-published book that he wrote with his wife, Carolyn. They were married for more than 45 years.

Carolyn Clifford told CNN that she was talking to park rangers on Monday and making plans for a memorial service.

Clifford celebrated his 98th birthday in July.

Her husband was one of the almost 400 workers between 1927 and 1941 who used jackhammers, and dynamite to carve the 60-foot-tall heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln into the side of the mountain.

Clifford got the job as a teenager because he knew how to use a jackhammer from his time working in mines, he said in his book.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected the four presidents to represent major events in the history of the United States: Washington represents its birth, Jefferson symbolizes its growth or expansion, Lincoln illustrates its preservation and Roosevelt embodies its development.

The National Park Service says the crews worked long hours in harsh and dangerous conditions, but there wasn’t a single fatality on the project.

Clifford spent a lot of time at Mount Rushmore in the summers, chatting with visitors and signing copies of his book.

At his birthday party in July, Carolyn told CNN affiliate KOTA that her husband was kind of reserved.

“He’s been a wonderful man. He’s very kind and generous, and somewhat shy,” she told KOTA. “You wouldn’t know that since he’s in the public, but he enjoys what he’s doing a lot.”