Joan Eubank is a committed Christian who
never misses an opportunity to serve her religion. Two minutes
into the interview she was fervently asking me to pray for the
world oppressed. This was a brave request, but Joan Eubank is
not averse to making brave decisions for her faith, and in fact
it has directed her entire life.
Joan was born in Kansas 70 years ago and then
moved to Houston, Texas, the eldest of five children born to a
mother who wrote poetry and who took her children to plays and
recitals, and a father who was a rodeo wrangler, played the
banjo and drank moonshine. An unlikely combination that could
not last, but despite failure of her parent’s marriage Joan
found her God. “I walked in the garden and prayed for God to
show Himself to me and I became flooded with a feeling of peace.
I then knew that God was real.”
Despite the domestic upheaval and a chronic
lack of money, Joan’s childhood was a happy one. She and her
brother Larry would write and act plays, charging the neighbours
to come and watch them. They may have been children, but there
was talent there which would come out later (Larry went on to
star in the TV drama series Hogan’s Heroes).
Joan began to sing while still at school, and
by the time she was 18 was performing regularly on the local TV
channel. “I wanted to go to Broadway,” was the young
Joan’s ambition, and when a touring dance band came to town
and needed a singer, she jumped at the chance, despite her
mother’s opposition. The first stop was Chicago. “I arrived
in Chicago with my little bible in one hand and the Houston
telephone directory in the other!”
However, Chicago wasn’t New York, so she
changed bands, slowly getting closer to her Broadway dream. She
was then 20 years old and during the Korean War, the United
Services Organization (USO) was sending entertainers to the
American troops stationed in Korea, and Joan decided she would
like to do that too. “I had a spirit of adventure,” she
said. “Guess it was from my Dad,” she added as an
No matter where it came from, Joan Eubank and
her little bible went to Korea and entertained the boys, and
whilst there met a young army captain who was building bridges
and MASH hospitals. They even had a candlelight dinner together
after she managed to put the captain’s jeep in a ditch! This,
she found out years later, was an important milestone.
After her Korean adventure, it was back to
the road heading towards Broadway. She joined an all-girl band
playing at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood and then started
speech and drama lessons. “That was to get rid of my Texas
accent,” she said, laughing.
By this time she was an acknowledged talent
on the way up. She had an agent who arranged an audition for a
national TV show and she was successful. Her TV career took off,
acting in The Ray Milland Show, The Alcoa Hour and The Lone
Ranger. There appeared to be no stopping her. But there was
something wrong and Joan felt that it was that she wanted to
sing and told her agent that she was taking a job in a chorus on
stage. Her agent was horrified. Her TV star wanting to be part
of the chorus line! They parted company as the adventure girl
turned her back on TV. “I needed to sing,” said Joan simply.
She did not last too long in the chorus, as
her talent was evident. She was elevated to lead singer
understudy and then offered the lead role in the musical
‘Plain and Fancy’ at the Drury Lane theatre in London. This
was the ‘Big Time’, but the star was still ascendant, with
25 year old Joan being picked to play the part of Carrie
Pipperidge in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical being
presented at the World Fair in Brussels. She also received the
Theatre World award as one of the top ten promising
personalities for the 1957-58 season, along with notables as
George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft and Carol Laurence.
During all this trans-Atlantic globe-trotting
life, Joan would exchange a couple of postcards a year with the
army captain she had met in Korea and who was now working in the
oil industry in Texas. She told him of her role in the World
Fair and he threatened to visit - if he didn’t join the
seminary! Joan didn’t see him in Brussels and presumed he had
accepted God’s mission instead, as indeed he had.
However, Joan’s next gig was in Fort Worth,
at a venue less than half a mile from the ex-captain’s
seminary, and they arranged to meet. It was also there that they
acknowledged their love and made the commitment to get married.
There was only one problem - Joan still had another 9 months of
her contract to run with Richard Rodgers!
Nine months can go quickly when you are in
love, but there was another factor that cropped up again. Joan
began to understand that what was missing from her life all
those years before was not just singing - it was that she wanted
to serve her God. She too went back to school and then entered
the seminary to become a Christian Missionary.
On graduation, Joan and missionary husband,
Allan Eubank, came to Thailand to spread the word, with one of
the ways to do this by adapting the native Thai musical
‘Ligay’ performances to illustrate biblical stories. Once a
performer, always a performer!
Joan has now spent over 30 years here, with much of that at
Payap University’s Christian Communications Institute, and
though officially retired still finds ways to serve her God.
“Jesus transformed my life from an egotistical showgirl to
someone who thinks about others.” For people like Joan Eubank,
I hope there’s a stage in her heaven too!