Kevin Casey, former Bear Country U.S.A. owner, dies in crash

2012-12-07T14:16:00Z 2012-12-07T21:05:07Z Kevin Casey, former Bear Country U.S.A. owner, dies in crashRyan Lengerich Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 07, 2012 2:16 pm  • 

Kevin Casey had always wanted to combine his love for animals with tourism. It was only natural for the man whose family started one of the most unique wildlife attractions in the country.

In the early 1980's, Casey earned his biology degree from Carroll College in Montana and returned to work in Rapid City at Bear Country U.S.A drive through wildlife park, which his parents founded in 1972.

Then in 2000, Casey took over as president when his father "Doc" passed away. He would be the president of the tourist attraction for the next eight years.

"When he ran Bear Country, he wasn't a boss to these employees, he was like a best friend," said his brother Sean Casey. "They just really loved him."

Casey, 51, died Friday morning in a one-vehicle crash near Vivian in central South Dakota where he owned an 8,000-acre buffalo ranch, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

According to highway patrol officials, Casey's 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 left the roadway while driving north on a gravel road between midnight and 7:40 a.m. He was not wearing a seat belt and was found dead at the scene.

Sean Casey, who said his brother was returning Thursday from a hunting trip, said his brother had been spending more time with his family since he left the park.

"He left Bear Country in 2008 and some of the best years of his life started then," Sean Casey said. "He spent more time with his kids, and bought that ranch (in Vivian) in 2010."

Casey is survived by his wife, Mary, two daughters and two sons.

The family attends the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Mary Casey is a campus minister for the Rapid City Catholic School System.

"One word comes to mind for me that describes Kevin — charismatic — he could talk to anybody about anything," said Dave Hollenbeck, a friend who is the head basketball coach at St. Thomas More High School.

Hollenbeck remembers leaving the locker room in 2010 after his team earned a berth in the state title game with Casey's son, Connor, as a starter. He saw Casey waiting for the team.

"He was standing over there in tears, so happy. He was a proud guy. He was happy for our program and happy for everybody. That is just the kind of guy he was," Hollenbeck said.

Casey also was vice president of the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation, where he has been on the board four years. His loss will be felt, according to foundation president Lynn Husman.

"He looked out for everybody else first. He wanted to do what was best for the community and the stock show," Husman said. "This is a huge loss for the foundation and for the community."

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. The Larson family
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    The Larson family - December 08, 2012 7:29 pm
    Words of ours must seem so futile to even begin to express what the Casey family has meant to our family. Kevin was the kind of man that all was made better just for having him in their lives. He will be missed and the Casey family will always be in our hearts and prayers. When it seems the world is being outnumbered by selfish and petty people, it's only because the best people have a spot at a special table. Love the Larson family in Loveland Colorado.
  2. dj3405
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    dj3405 - December 08, 2012 11:50 am
    Kevin was truly a wonderful man. When I was 16 years old, my father and I, along with Kevin and an RV full of friends took a fishing trip into northern Canada. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life. Along the way, Kevin taught me how to play poker. The whole trip was a blast. I will always remember Kevin as a man of noble character. He was always willing to lend a laugh and made others around him walk a little taller. My deepest thoughts go to his family. May he continue to live on through your stories and in your hearts.
  3. mpuddle1991
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    mpuddle1991 - December 08, 2012 10:20 am
    The man who taught me so much through out my adolescent years passed away yesterday. Not once did he speak ill of another during his most trying times. He was a true mans man. To this day I can see him walking around bear country is his camo shorts, black north face jacket, and ankle high hiking boots laughing and joking around with us kids as if we were his own family. A modern day John Wayne Kevin was. May we all strive to be as compassionate, loving, and charismatic. The world has lost one of the greatest men to ever walk it and I am so thankful that I was able to have Kevin and the Casey family by my side growing up. My sympathy goes out to the Casey family, I know god will see you all through these tragic times.

    "And my heart is sinking like a setting sun,
    Setting on the things I wish I'd done.
    Oh the last goodbye's the hardest one to say,
    And this is where the cowboy rides away. "

    RIP Kevin Casey, thank you for all you have done for me
  4. Mgarner
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    Mgarner - December 08, 2012 5:30 am
    Thank you for this post much better. Kevin may your family be comforted knowing so many people are thinking of them RIP
  5. Mgarner
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    Mgarner - December 07, 2012 7:10 pm
    So sorry to hear of this loss. I grew up with the Casey family and worked for them for sometime. Kevin RIP . Really was all the rest of the article needed they just lost a family member did you have to drag up the past too
  6. claroofusjones
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    claroofusjones - December 07, 2012 6:47 pm
    My condolences to the entire Casey family. Kevin was a fine human being, and I am shocked to the core at hearing the news of his untimely passing. Kevin Casey was as decent and kind a man as you will ever meet.

    Journal, please desist with your description of Kevin as part of a family breakup. He was part of a family, who is suffering now in the worst way. Continue to contact people who can provide the important facts of Kevin's life - those of a fine, caring man. Print those things. Money means nothing here.
  7. Joe Ollendick
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    Joe Ollendick - December 07, 2012 6:07 pm
    Really Sorry hearing that Kevin Casey has passed from an accident. Our Sons spent as lot of time with the Casey Boys and we really enjoyed them all. They older ones went to High School together at St Martins. So our Sympathies go out to the Families of the Casey's. Barbara and Joe Ollendick.
  8. gondola
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    gondola - December 07, 2012 5:25 pm
    You can't be serious. It was important to talk about the lawsuits and the dollar settlements. I feel for the family, even at a low moment in their lives you are there to remind them of some of the other negatives. Kevin will be missed by all.
  9. chrishull
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    chrishull - December 07, 2012 4:22 pm
    Wow. what a loss for Rapid City, the Stock Show, the SD Tourism Industry and most of all, the Casey family. I got to work closely with Kevin, Brendan and Sean during my time as SD Tourism Department...A great guy, a class act, a fun loving guy. My thoughts and prayers to the Casey family....he will be missed.
  10. rclocal1
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    rclocal1 - December 07, 2012 3:56 pm
    Once again, the Rapid City Journal siezes the opportunity to turn a family's time of grief into a headline grab. Everyone remembers the Bear Country dispute. I'm sure we'll all get to relive it blow-by-blow for the next several days, as the Journal takes us back through every detail and how the Journal fought the judge's rulings that documents be sealed. In the meantime, this family is grieving. How about instead of continuing to prod at the feud, to acknowledge that this man; this good, decent man has prematurely and tragically lost his life, just 2 weeks before Christmas? Can this publication write one story about the good Kevin has done for this community? Believe me, the list is long. He was a wonderful man, a caring man and to his friends and family, he will be deeply missed. I only hope this paper will let the family grieve in peace, without being constantly reminded of the problems of the past.
  11. Predator
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    Predator - December 07, 2012 3:39 pm
    Prayers to the family
  12. sickofit
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    sickofit - December 07, 2012 3:34 pm
    Our prayers are with the Casey family. Kevin was an asset to the community and an upstanding guy. That being said, why is it necessary to bring up the family disputes from the past at a time like this? NOT very classy, Rapid City Journal. It's evident you like to stir the pot on all issues, but really? Have you no boundaries?
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