MIAMI VALLEY — Ted Studebaker lived his life fighting for peace and understanding.
In his death, his family doesn’t want him — or his cause — to be forgotten.
In memorializing him, two of his seven siblings, Gary and Doug Studebaker, have written a book in honor of the 1964 graduate of Milton-Union High School titled “Ted Allen Studebaker, An Enduring Force for Peace.” The book chronicles Ted Stuebaker’s life from his early years through his death and subsequent memorials.
A conscientious objector, Ted Studebaker was a volunteer agriculturist with Vietnam Christian Service in the highlands of Vietnam during the war, after accepting an alternative service from the U.S. government.
“Ted told his draft board that he would not carry a gun, but he was perfectly willing to serve in Vietnam in a civilian capacity,” said Gary Studebaker, whose career in special education included teacher, administrator and academic coach in California. “He chose to serve in the Central Highlands, where his agriculture projects included test plots of rice and other crops, the use and maintenance of rice hulling equipment and poultry projects.”
In the third year of his work in Vietnam, he married Padky, a Chinese co-worker. One week after their marriage, Vietnamese forces, opposing the Americans, entered their house and killed him.
In their quest to honor Ted effectively, the brothers retraced his life in Vietnam. Gary, who had served in Laos in the mid-1960s, still had connecti0ns in Southeast Asia that helped the brothers navigate the journey.
“We wrote the book to honor Ted’s courageous work as a humanitarian and to learn more details about the two years of his life in Vietnam. With several months of pre-planning, we were able to contact past and present volunteers from various non-government organizations,” said Doug Studebaker of Burlingame, Calif., who had a lengthy career in social work.
“All of these people were pleased to help us honor Ted’s life. It was in the town of Di Linh where we talked to five of the local people who were friends of Ted. They shared fond memories of Ted. It was quite gratifying to be among these people and to remember our brother. With their help, we were able to carry out a family tradition, that of planting a tree in Vietnam in honor of Ted’s life.”
Growing up on a 145-acre farm in Union, and as members of the West Milton Church of the Brethren, the brothers said the siblings were taught to choose a life of non-violence.
“Ted’s brother, Lowell, who served in the military, has a proud respect for the bold, non-violent work Ted contributed to mankind as does Ted’s entire family,” said Gary Studebaker of Anaheim, Calif. “Although the life of Ted and the soldier were in opposition to one another, Ted had an appreciation for the honest decisions a soldier arrived at to serve in the military.
“However, Ted was critical of government leaders who had no rationale for supporting the war in Vietnam and the outcomes that resulted. The consequences of that war will be ongoing for many years to come.”
Ted Studebaker’s life also has been documented in a number of other ways, including books, songs, peace walls and in the hall of honor at Milton-Union High School. In addition, a Ted Studebaker Award is presented to a graduating senior at Milton-Union High School each year.
The seven siblings — who also include Mary Ann Cornell of Greenville, Lowell Studebaker of Loudon, Tenn., Nancy Smith of Troy, Linda Post of Bremerton, Wash., and Ron Studebaker of Ashville, Ohio — gathered Sept. 11, 2016, at the Dayton International Peace Museum to view a new exhibit that opened in Ted’s honor April 26, 2016, the 44th anniversary of his death in Di Linh, Vietnam. The exhibit includes artifacts, photos, his writings, quotes and an interactive audio visual presentation.
“As it is with any loved one, Ted leaves a void in our lives,” said Doug Studebaker. “At the same time it is a matter of pride for his family and many others — even generations who never knew him — to celebrate his accomplishments as a nonviolent peace hero. We admire Ted’s confident stand at working for peace through nonviolence even when it was unpopular to do so.”
More than anything, the brothers hope the book serves as a reminder of Ted’s strength.
“We remember Ted as a non-violent peace hero, as is stated at the many memorials where his life is celebrated. We also remember him as the strong, athletic, fun-loving person who people were attracted to,” Gary Studebaker said.
“Ted was an ordinary person who chose to do extraordinary things for humanity with his life. His short life underscores that in choosing to be a pacifist, he was not passive. His life was active, directive and confident.”
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