Brethren Historical Library and Archives
Hidden gems: The Mystery of Ven Pak Studebaker (1945-1971)
by Virginia Harness, archival intern
After the publication of the last Hidden Gems post on Ted Studebaker, and the accompanying article in eBrethren, the inboxes at the General Offices quickly become inundated with variations of the same question: “What happened to Ven Pak Studebaker?” This is her story.
Ven Pak, like her husband, was born into a large family. She came into the world just as her native China was plunged into the conflict of World War II. In the midst of those trying times, the family moved to Hong Kong, where Ven Pak grew up. Eventually she moved to Taiwan to attend college, and after school she ventured to South Vietnam to volunteer as a peace worker.
It was there that she met Ted Studebaker, and married him in the spring of 1971, only to become a widow a week later when an attack by the Viet Cong claimed Ted’s life.
Following that harrowing experience, Ven Pak traveled to the United States to attend Ted’s funeral and meet her in-laws for the first time. She remained in America for several years, and even attended Manchester College (Ted’s alma mater) for a time. However, Ven Pak eventually realized that the hectic pace of American life was not for her, and opted instead to cross the Pacific once more to be with her relatives in Australia. Ven Pak found life there suited her well, and she become very involved with her church in Australia. She lives there to this day, surrounded by friends and family. She still keeps in touch with Ted’s family, over 40 years after his death.
Recently we received a package here at the Church of the Brethren General Offices from none other than Ven Pak Studebaker herself. There is no doubt that her life has had its dark patches, but it is also abundantly clear that amidst the darkness she has found light and joy. To quote from Ven Pak’s letter, “ ‘Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning’ Psalm 30:5”.