Event to raise funds to save Willis House


On Saturday, the Delaware community is invited to celebrate Korean culture while also helping to preserve part of Delaware’s history.

Aug. 15 marks Gwangbokjeol, also called the National Liberation Day of Korea. It is celebrated on Aug. 15 in commemoration of Victory over Japan Day during World War II. This victory was an important day for Korea because it freed the nation from Japanese colonial rule.

The celebration will be held at the Willis House at 6509 Olentangy River Road. The house, which was built in 1885, belonged to Frank B. Willis. Willis was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, a governor of Ohio, a U.S. senator, and a presidential hopeful. His run for the presidency was cut short by a fatal heart attack on March 30, 1928.

The Willis House was once grand and beautiful. Today, it has fallen into disrepair as time, vandals and water damage have taken their toll on it. Some of the house’s past grandeur is still evident in the intricate engravings that surround the doors and the beautiful curving staircase. The owners of the house would like to see this beauty preserved and restored.

The owners of the house are Korean immigrants, Sam Sae Lee and Hae Suk Lee Chung. Sam Sae has been held in Korea due to visa problems, leaving his wife, Hae Suk, to work on the home. The Lees have owned the home for about five years. “A lot of people [say] ‘you should destroy this house,’ but I think this house is very important because [it’s a] historical house” Hae Suk explained.

Hae Suk, a teacher by profession, feels that it is very important to preserve history and to teach the next generation to appreciate its nation’s past. As a Korean immigrant, Hae Suk said she wants to teach her students to appreciate the culture of Korea and of the United States. Her goal is to move the school that she currently runs, the Immanuel Mission School, into the Willis House. She would also like to hold Korean cultural events and to grow Korean vegetables at the house. In this way, the cultures of her two nations would be brought together.

The house will require many repairs before Hae Suk’s dream can be realized. Her hope is that her husband’s and daughter’s visas will be extended, so that they can return to the United States. “They should extend our visa, legally,” she said. When her family is able to join her in the States, Hae Suk says they will go to work and earn money, which will be used towards restoring the house. Pointing to the rotting roof in one of the upstairs rooms of the house, she explained, “so this problem, is just only visa problem.”

While Hae Suk waits for her family’s visa issues to be sorted out, she knows that every day that the roof is not repaired causes more damage to the house. Her first goal is to repair the roof, and she hopes that the Aug. 15 event will help to raise some of the funds to do so. The event is a free event, although donations will be take and greatly appreciated, she said.

There will be a TaeKwonDo demonstration, a performance by Samul Nori, a Korean music group, and food. The celebration will last from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Korean family wants to save landmark

By Megan Neary

For The Gazette

Megan Neary can be reached at [email protected].

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