PART 3: TO SOW THE SEEDS OF PEACE Ted was killed during an attack on his quarters. Years later, shared memories of Ted’s stand against war created a bond between his American family and his friends in Vietnam.
On April 17, 1971, Ted Studebaker married Lee Ven Pak (Pakdy), a fellow volunteer.
Nine days later, forces opposed to the United States began shelling the VNCS house. Ted, Pakdy, nurse Phyllis Cribby, and Daisy Benares, a rice expert, rushed to a bunker beneath a stairway. For unknown reasons, Ted returned to his room. Opposition forces entered the house with guns. The women survived. Ted died in a closet where he had raised chicks for the Koho (pronounced caw-ha´). He died beneath a poster that read, “Suppose they gave a war—and nobody came.” There is some uncertainty as to who actually killed Ted.
Just before his death, Ted had written a response to a letter from a couple in Troy, Ohio. They had read Ted’s views on the Vietnam War in their local paper. They questioned Ted’s patriotism and understanding of scripture. Ted thanked them for writing but held his ground. “I condemn all war,” he wrote. Before the attack on their quarters, Ted showed his letter to Phyllis. Phyllis prepared the incident report after the attack.
On learning of his death, Ted’s family gathered on the farm. They scheduled a memorial service for May 3. In the meantime, news agencies around the world reported Ted’s death and the stand he took for peace. An ABC News story aired May 4.
Since Ted’s death, the Studebaker family has continued to discover the impact Ted’s short life has had on other people.
In May 2012, two of Ted’s brothers traveled to Vietnam. Gary and Doug wanted to be among the people with whom Ted had lived and worked. On behalf of the entire family, they also wanted to honor Ted’s memory. The trip required months of planning to ensure their own safety and the safety of their in-country hosts and escorts. Before leaving, Gary and Ted collected flower seeds from their siblings.
In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Gary and Doug met the family of Trinh Cong Son (1939-2001). Trinh Cong Son wrote peace songs that Ted had added to his repertoire. In Di Linh (pronounced zee-ling), Gary and Doug met people who had known Ted, including the best man and the flower girl at Ted and Pakdy’s wedding. Their new friends helped them scatter the flower seeds and plant a tree in Ted’s memory. The trip confirmed what the Studebakers believed: Both Americans and Vietnamese value family, life, and peace.
During an interview of Ted's siblings in 2014, a videographer asked whether Ted would have forgiven the people who killed him. "I've come to believe that Ted's stance towards peace and reconciliation was so strong that he forgave them at that moment," said Doug. "I believe that strongly."