Manchester Magazine Fall 2017 - Page 25

MU| F e a t u r e s H e lives now in an upstairs room of a lovingly preserved historic home in downtown Dayton, Ohio, surrounded by artwork and a “Labyrinth of Love” quilt and a “Peace Heroes” quilt that features Gandhi and Ma rtin Luther King and Bishop Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa, and also Jimmy Carter. Ted Studebaker, a 1967 Manchester graduate who not only talked but lived non-violence, died violently in a violent place in the wee hours of April 26, 1971. But he lives. something different about him, an empathy for others that set him apart. the bedroom, and, after a brief interrogation, shot him. He was 25 years old. “He had a serious bent about helping people,” Cornell says. “He knew he didn’t want to go to war. That was obvious. But he knew he wanted to participate in some way.” To this day, no one knows for sure why he was killed. Fluent in both Vietnamese and Koho, the Montagnard dialect, he was known, and apparently well liked, by everyone in the area – including U.S. military personnel. In any case, his death became a national story; on May 4, 1971, ABC-TV aired a piece on Studebaker during the evening news. It was an impulse cultivated by his involvement as a youth in the local Church of the Brethren, “Of course it was a shock,” Cornell recalls of her brother’s death. “He communicated with tapes, and you could hear the mortars in the background. So you knew it was dangerous where he was. He lives in the aforementioned International Peace Museum in Dayton, where his guitar and a vase crafted from a 40-millimeter artillery shell and photos of him in Vietnam are displayed in the Peace Heroes Room of the historic Isaac Pollack House, which dates to 1867 and has been home to the Peace Museum since 2004. He lives, Ted Studebaker does, in tape recordings he made while working as a conscientious objector with the Vietnam Christian Service in the village of Di Linh, where for two years he taught farming techniques to the reclusive Montagnard sect. And he lives in a neat, quiet living room in Greenville, Ohio, where his sister, Mary Ann Studebaker ’52 Cornell, opens a scrapbook and holds up a photo of a young man wearing black horn-rimmed glasses and an engaging smile. “This is our favorite picture of Ted,” she says. The eighth of nine children, Ted grew up on a dairy farm south of West Milton, Ohio, a “regular kid,” according to Cornell, who played the guitar, swam in the pond out back in the summers and skated on it in the winters. Yet from an early age, there was “And yet he didn’t worry about that. He had just re-upped for another year, because he didn’t feel his work was finished and he wanted to stay.” That commitment – to principle, to the work, to the people with whom he’d grown close – was why the family let the ABC cameras in after initially rebuffing them. and nourished later on at Manchester, where Ted played football and graduated in three years. A graduate degree in social work from Florida State came next; he had a grant waiting on him from the state of Alabama when he came home from Vietnam. He never did. A week after Ted married Ven Pak Lee, a fellow volunteer from Hong Kong, the Viet Cong, who had largely left Di Linh alone, inexplicably began to shell the village shortly after midnight. Everyone took cover in a nearby bunker; Ted, for reasons that have never been clear, then went back to the living quarters. “At first my dad said no, they’ve got no business coming and interfering with our family,” Cornell recalls. “And then afterwards he … (decided) it would be OK because Ted would have wanted his story to be told. Not necessarily for his sake, but for the sake of what he was doing.” And what he was doing – the example of it, and the Manchester values it embodies – still lives. In the photo above, Ted Studebaker ’67 is pictured with co-workers ’Lai and K’Krah in Di Linh, Vietnam, where for two years he taught farming techniques. Ted grew up on a dairy farm near West Milton, Ohio. The Viet Cong threw a satchel charge against the building. Then they entered, found Ted in Manchester | 25