PART 2: WHO SHARED HIS JOY OF LIFE Ted embraced the Koho and their culture. His humor, compassion, and openness to differences earned him the respect of Vietnamese civilians and U.S. soldiers alike.
“Life is great, yeah!”
That was Ted Studebaker’s favorite saying. He used those words to close letters sent home from Di Linh (pronounced zee-ling).
Ted was the seventh of eight children born to Zelma and Stanley Studebaker. He enjoyed growing up on the family farm with a pond for swimming and horses for riding. He had a great sense of humor; for example, as a teenager, he’d drive down country roads and make his car backfire to startle farmers working in their fields. Ted learned to play the guitar. He entertained himself and friends with songs popular during the 1960s. Strong and athletic, Ted excelled in sports. He played football in high school and in college. He loved the game, and he didn’t mind roughing up other players.
Ted had a serious side, too. He knew people suffered in other parts of the world. He wanted to help ease that suffering. Ted fulfilled his mission by volunteering with the Vietnam Christian Service (VNCS).
Ted loved his work in Di Linh, and he loved the people with whom he worked—the Koho (pronounced caw-ha´), one of many hill tribes collectively known as the Montagnards. Vietnamese also lived in Di Linh. American and South Vietnamese soldiers were stationed nearby in a military compound.
Ted learned the Koho language. He also learned Vietnamese. Ted could speak to everyone he passed whether Koho, Vietnamese, or American. And he took time to make friends and have fun—walking on his hands, strumming his guitar, and even playing ball with American soldiers.
It was in Di Linh where Ted fell in love with Lee Ven Pak (Pakdy), a fellow volunteer from Hong Kong.
Ted was happy, and life was great despite the dangers of living in a war zone.