Elkhart Community Holds ‘Celebration of Life’ for Art Decio


[embedded content]

Arthur J. Decio

Nearly two years after he passed away at the age of 90, legendary Elkhart businessman and philanthropist Arthur J. “Art” Decio’s family, friends and associates set aside a special moment yesterday morning (Oct. 19) to honor him in a pandemic-delayed “Celebration of Life” ceremony that culminated in the unveiling of a statue of Decio and his wife, Pat, in downtown Elkhart.

The tribute took place both inside and outside the Lerner Theatre, one of a wide array of charitable organizations that benefited from the non-profit outreach of Decio, an Elkhart native who first made a name for himself as the CEO of mobile home and RV builder Skyline Corp. – a company that Decio’s father, Julius, started in a rented garage that ultimately became the nation’s largest manufactured housing builder.

Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.

“I would say it’s a special moment,” said Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, which hosted Wednesday’s event along with the Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation and Crossroads United Way. “We’ve been waiting two years to pay tribute to one of our patron saints for the city of Elkhart and the Elkhart community”

Attendees were treated to a history of Decio and Skyline, which produced for a period of years the Nomad, Layton, Aljo and WeekEnder towable RV brands before they were sold in 2014 to Evergreen Recreational Vehicles LLC, a northern Indiana firm that’s no longer in business.

Skyline merged in early 2018 into Champion Home Builders Inc., which, doing business as Skyline Champion Corp., today has an expansive footprint in the factory-built housing business nationwide with some of its facilities still situated in Elkhart.

Beyond Decio’s entrepreneurial achievements – for which he appeared in 1965 on the cover of Time magazine – he was renowned in the area for his consistent support of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, the Elkhart Salvation Army, Elkhart General Hospital, Beacon Health System, Indiana University, the Elkhart Chapter of the NAACP and the University of Notre Dame for which he served for some 30 years as a trustee.

Decio, one of the founders of WNIT-TV, was also a key contributor and fund-raiser for the 1968 campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, having introduced Kennedy at a downtown Elkhart rally that drew 9,000 people.

On hand for the “Celebration of Life” were four of Decio’s five children: Terry Decio, St. Joseph, Mich.; Jamee Decio, Los Angeles; Lindy Reilly, Winnetka, Ill.; and Jay Christman, Simsbury, Conn. – all of whom posed in front of the statue sculpted by local artist Tuck Langland at the corner of Franklin and Main streets at the request of Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson. Not on hand was sister Aly Laird, of Reno, Nev.

Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson and the family of Art Decio.

“So, the reason why I wanted to bring the family up, is that I want to make sure that everybody is aware of what this spot, this space means to Elkhart,” said Roberson. “It’s the center of our city. And that’s why it was suggested that the statue go here. And obviously it really does fit.

‘It sits right outside of the college, IUSB’s building here, and the (Lerner Theatre’s) Crystal Ballroom as well as the city’s downtown,” he added. “But more importantly, Art took great pride in seeing Elkhart come together as a community. And he would be so proud to see some of the events that we’ve held in our downtown over the past couple of years, especially those that have taken place right here on the Central Green.

“So, we’re honored as a city to have had this man really make normal people feel important over the years,” noted Roberson, who’s been mayor for two years. “Not too many people can do that, which is why this is a very special honor. In honor of Art and his wife, Pat, we rename this space the ‘Art and Pat Decio Central Green.’ So, every time we come together as an Elkhart family, we will remember one of the city’s greatest champions, Art and Pat Decio.”

Source: https://rvbusiness.com/elkhart-community-holds-celebration-of-life-for-art-decio/