When Kwang Caseycame to America, he entered a strange land as a 13-year-old youth with the only language that he knew from his native South Korea.
“Scary and excited,” Casey recalled of that particular boyhood experience. “I was an immigrant and spoke no English.”Casey’s journey from Pusan, South Korea’s second-largest city, ended in Perry Township where he lived with his aunt and uncle, Otisand Pok Casey, who later adopted
him. Casey first went to school at Southport Middle School and later Southport High School.
He was first placed in special education classes because he was deemed “slow;” not because he could not speak English. Fortunately, several teachers – Ed Henry, Larry Hensely-Marchand, Bill Rowley and Ron Tinley – took time to help him in his transition. Casey speaks volumes about their caring and inspirational attitude.Today, Perry Township educators are recognized nationally for educating a diverse student population. By the time Casey was in seventh grade, he was making A’s in all his classes. He later majored in electrical engineering at IUPUI.
He also enjoyed working at restaurants. Eventually he met two engineers who became partners in a new business in Greenwood, the Oaken Barrel Brewing Company, one of the first in central Indiana to brew and serve craft beers.He also is co-owner of the Airport Parkway Plaza where Oaken Barrel is located on Main Street and recently the Garment Factory event center in Franklin.
Casey and his wife Kathy have four children, Kandice, Kameron, Kieran and Kayden, a junior at Southport High School. His interest in the restaurant business began with various jobs that he had which led him to establish the brewpub that is Indiana’s second-oldest brewery.“
This began with my desire to serve people,” Casey said. ‘I believed that people would want to come for the beer and that good food and service would bring them back again and again. And that’s exactly what has happened for 25 years.
”Respectful of his Asian roots,Casey wants those in his adopted state and throughout the U.S. to know about the impact of Asians through-out Indiana.
Casey is the sponsor of a new exhibit, Be Heard: Asian Experiences in Indiana, that opened Friday and continues through July 27 at the Eugeneand Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis.“This is my way of giving back to the community a little bit, and telling the history of many people like me,”Casey said."
This acknowledges many people from Asia who came here and have added greatly to our way of life.”
The display on the fourth floor features the geographic heritage of Central,
Pacific and South Asian countries with many photographs, donated items and oral histories of their stories that can be listened to by history center patrons.“ These are stories that need to be heard,” Casey said Thursday at a preview of the exhibit. “They came to begin a new life in a new land, like me,
scared and excited.”
Nicole Martinez-LeGrand, Indiana History Society coordinator of multi-cultural collections, conducted the oral interviews of their experiences. The collections were gathered through the Asian history collecting initiative, sup- ported by Lilly Endowment, Inc The displays include the histories of many Asian families, including notables in medicine, entertainment and food service. The Myanmar display is of high interest to the Southside where numerous ethnic groups have fled from religious and governmental persecution.
Many refugees have settled in Perry Township.“We are grateful to secure our new lives in a welcoming community where we can grow,” said Elaisa Vahnie, executive director of the Burmese American Community Indiana, while standing next to display of Myanmar,formerly Burma.The history center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;