Vol. II No. 9 Saturday 1 March - 7 March 2003
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Weekly Local Biography

 Joan Eubank

 

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 afterthought.

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!


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