A longtime community leader in Elkhart, Indiana and manufactured housing has died. Arthur “Art’ J. Decio had multiple awards and recognitions inside manufactured housing, the recreational vehicle industry, and beyond. One of several examples of his impact is illustrated in the video below.
Knowing that Danny Ghorbani was close to Art Decio, MHProNews asked Ghorbani to reflect on his contributions to the evolution of the manufactured housing industry.
“The passing of my friend, mentor, and benefactor, Arthur J. Decio is a huge loss to me personally and to his family, friends, and colleagues in the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle industries. I know this and I can say this because I personally knew Art for fifty-two years. He brought me into manufactured housing industry and encouraged me to stay in this industry when, after three years and accomplishing why he and his allies brought me into this industry, I had an opportunity to move on by accepting a position as an engineering professor at the Georgia Tech University, and we kept our close friendship for all those fifty-two years. So, one might say that I know a thing or two about my dear friend, Art Decio, as related to the manufactured housing industry.
Art will always be remembered as a legend and a giant of a personality, the type of which might come around once in a lifetime, and leave their fingerprints forever long after they are gone. In business, Art was an innovative and a visionary, but most importantly a true leader…the type of a leader that an industry will be lucky and blessed to have. He was positive and charming, with the former his biggest asset in business and the lather his biggest asset with people. When Art walked into a room, the room would light up. Art utilized all his assets to form allies and coalitions in order to advance our industry the past 50 years. He never forced his views and positions on others in business, particularly with his competitors. Instead, he would use his charm and gentle persuasion to show, prove, and convince others that his suggestions would fully benefit all companies and individuals in our industry, with our consumers as the ultimate beneficiaries, and he never failed doing it. Thus, in the latter part of the 1990’s, Art was able to build the strongest industry coalition at a time when manufactured housing industry needed it most in order to transition from trailers of yesteryear to the legitimate housing industry of today.
And it is high time to name some of his allies that brought about this huge, worthy, and lasting transition for manufactured housing industry…people like Edward J. Hussey, Sr, Don Greenwalt, F. L. Cappaert, James Redman, Vince Edwards, James F. Shea Sr, Robert DeRose, and many, many, many others. A whole book can be written about how Art formed and led this coalition, how he did it and how hard they all worked and fought to make this industry what it is today. I witnessed it all, was part of it, and am proud that I knew him and all his allies and colleagues for what they have accomplished.
I will miss my friend, Art Decio, tremendously. May God bless his soul, while placing him in heaven.”
Danny D. Ghorbani
Ghorbani and Decio are both RV MH Hall of Fame inductees.
Ghorbani’s point that a book could be written about Decio is also illustrated in this video.
CBS affiliate WSBT 22 said the following.
“A longtime community leader in Elkhart has died.
Art Decio passed away today at the age of 90. He was described as a leader, philanthropist and champion of Elkhart by current mayor Rod Roberson.
Decio contributed to the arts, education and community development throughout Michiana over the years.”
Ghorbani told MHProNews that Decio was ‘larger than life’ in his impact on a range of issues, which these various media outlets highlights.
Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson released the following statement regarding Decio’s death.
“Art Decio was a giant in Elkhart. But it never felt that way when you talked to him; you were just talking to Art. His legacy is building community, service, and love for his home that will make Elkhart a better place for many years to come. I am humbled by his contributions and will carry his spirit with me as I continue to serve this great city. We mourn with his family, friends, and with all of Elkhart today.”
U.S. Congressional Representative Jackie Walorski made the following public statement.
“Art Decio was an entrepreneur, community leader, and champion of his beloved Elkhart. He built an enduring legacy and will long be remembered for his kind heart and passion for serving others. Art’s passing is a profound loss for our community. Dean and I will keep his family in our prayers during this difficult time.”
PBS provided MHProNews the following video of Arthur “Art” Decio’s “Wonderful Life.” Their cameras “take viewers on a journey into the past to explore Art, as he is called by people who know him; philanthropist, humanitarian, businessman, leader, visionary and real life living legend.” That was in May 2015.
This video about his recent passage was produced before more details on funeral plans were announced.
WNDU said on November 6 that “Longtime community leader and philanthropist Art Decio has died.” They noted that in “December 2019, the donor lobby in The Lerner Theatre was renamed in honor of” Decio.
The University of Notre Dame, where Decio was a longtime trustee, said the following.
“Art was a cherished, wise and generous friend of Notre Dame, and a dear friend to me personally,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “He likewise lent his many talents to innumerable civic, religious, educational and humanitarian causes here in the South Bend-Elkhart region, statewide and nationally. My prayers are with his family and many friends as we mourn his passing while celebrating a life so very well lived.”
Decio was the retired chairman, president, director and chief executive officer of Skyline Corp., an Elkhart, Indiana-based producer of manufactured housing and recreational vehicles. He joined the company in 1952 when it operated out of a small Elkhart welding garage and grew it into a national leader in the industry with eight operating divisions across the country.
Decio was elected to Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees in 1971 and was elevated to emeritus status in 2001. A Notre Dame parent, he was a founding member of the University’s Cavanaugh Council and a generous benefactor, including gifts for the construction of Decio Faculty Hall and the Patricia George Decio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. In addition to the Cavanaugh Council, he also was a member of the President’s Circle and John Cardinal O’Hara Society and supported the Snite Museum, Student Emergency Relief Fund, Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund and Hesburgh Libraries. He received a Notre Dame honorary degree in 1975.
In addition to his service to Notre Dame, Decio was a past chairman and trustee emeritus of Holy Cross College, a trustee of Hillsdale College and an advisory board member of Indiana University South Bend. The Brothers of Holy Cross and Holy Cross College bestowed the first Cross of Hope Award on Decio in 1996 and an honorary degree in 2019. He also received honorary degrees from Hillsdale, Indiana State University, Purdue University, Saint Mary’s College, Vincennes University and Salem College.
He received presidential appointments to three national commissions and served on the boards of more than 45 organizations, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Other organizations to benefit from his service were the Elkhart General Hospital Foundation, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board, Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and Nibco Inc.
Decio was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Patricia.”
Palmer Funeral Homes posted the following obituary.
Arthur J. “Art” Decio, an Elkhart-born businessman and philanthropist who was never happier than when he was helping others, died peacefully at home on Friday, surrounded by beloved family and friends. He was 90.
Decio, a man dedicated to his family, faith and the welfare of everyone whose life he could touch, was an Elkhart original. His generosity extended beyond planned giving to spontaneous acts wherever he went – giving a hand to strangers and those he encountered in the course of daily life. A first generation American, he became one of the most successful businessmen in Indiana via Skyline Corporation, a mobile home and recreational vehicle company. Decio appeared on the cover of Time magazine in a 1965 article about successful businessmen under 40.
He was born Oct. 19, 1930, in a home on Indiana Avenue, to Julius and Lena Alesia Decio. His arrival during the Great Depression would profoundly shape his desire to help others. His philanthropy started at age 8, when he gave a third of his paperboy earnings to the Elkhart Salvation Army (a charity he would later serve at the national level) and another third to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church – founded upon the principles of charity and compassion for the poor that guided him throughout his life.
Decio was educated at Marmion Military Academy and DePaul University in Chicago. While at Marmion, he met Patricia George, the love of his life. They wed on Jan. 6, 1951, and were married 59 years, until her death in 2010.
Decio is survived by his five children: Terrence (Marlene) Decio of St. Joseph, Mich.; Jamee Decio, of Los Angeles; Lindy (Robert) Reilly of Winnetka, Ill.; Jay (Peter IV) Christman of Simsbury, Conn; and Leigh (Paul) Laird of Reno, Nev.; his 14 grandchildren: Benjamin (Nicole) Decio, Murray Decio, Ryan Hart Decio, Brittan (Michael) Callahan, Jaxon Arthur (Anne) Reilly, Keenan Reilly, Flint (Samantha) Reilly, Peter V. (Kristin) Christman, Carson Christman, Gabrielle Christman, Eliza Christman, Alexandra (Lucas) Fedele, Collier Arthur Laird, and Revere Laird; 13 great grandchildren; and his sister, Barbara Decio Vite of Paradise Valley, Ariz.
In 1952, Decio took over Skyline Coach Co., which his father had started in a rented garage, and led Skyline to become the nation’s largest mobile home builder. A leader in the manufactured housing industry and a member of the Mobile Home Hall of Fame, Decio took pride in providing affordable housing to Americans.
Beginning in the late 1950s, Decio began raising money for a range of community causes, which he supported to the end of his life. In his hometown, he led fundraising campaigns to build St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, remodel Elkhart General Hospital and renovate the Lerner Theatre. In 2016, Beacon Health System dedicated the Arthur J. Decio Pavilion at Elkhart General Hospital to honor his 60 years of financial support.
Decio was instrumental in establishing and sustaining an Indiana University campus in Elkhart. In 1984, United Way of Elkhart County honored him by establishing the Arthur J. Decio Volunteer of the Year Award.
He was a life member of the Elkhart County chapter of the NAACP and was active in the Elkhart Urban League. He was a large contributor and fundraiser for the 1968 Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and introduced Kennedy at a rally in downtown Elkhart that drew 9,000 people. Within months, Decio would serve as an honorary pallbearer at Kennedy’s funeral. He was an advisor to local, state, and national leaders of both parties.
Decio served on the boards of businesses, banks and nonprofits and received dozens of awards. He was among the founders of WNIT-TV, and with his wife underwrote “Sesame Street” and other public television programming. He was awarded the station’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was a founding director of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.
Decio served as a trustee at the University of Notre Dame (1971- 2001) and later was appointed a life member and fellow. In 1989, he received Notre Dame’s Rev. Howard J. Kenna C.S.C. Award, as well as the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh C.S.C. Award for distinguished public service and community involvement from the National Notre Dame Alumni Association. In 1990, the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley named him Man of the Year. A lifelong friend of Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Decio was deeply moved and honored to be named a Hesburgh Trustee in 2018.
Three U.S. presidents appointed Decio to federal commissions. He served on the boards of more than 40 civic, religious, educational, and financial organizations including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He joined the international board of Special Olympics at the request of founders Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and helped organize the International Special Olympics at Notre Dame in 1987.
He served as chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army and was named a life member of the organization. In 1987, he won the Salvation Army’s William Booth Award for outstanding contributions to the betterment of humanity and the United Way of America’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award for outstanding service to community and country. He twice received Indiana’s highest honor, the Sagamore of the Wabash, in 1977 and 1985.
He was past chairman and trustee emeritus of Holy Cross College and a trustee of Hillsdale College. In 1996, the Brothers of Holy Cross gave Decio the inaugural Cross of Hope Award. He was awarded eight honorary degrees.
In 2000, he received the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Distinguished American Award and was a charter recipient of the Indiana University Foundation’s Herman B. Wells Visionary Award.
Decio leaves a rich legacy of serving others. He believed everyone should do their best to help those in need. “I’m a very wealthy guy… in values.”
The Decio family will celebrate his life in a private Mass, with interment at Cedar Grove Cemetery on the University of Notre Dame’s campus. Palmer Funeral Homes – Hickey Chapel, South Bend, is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be offered at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.”
MHProNews learned that the late President John F. “Jack” Kennedy was among the celebrities and notable officials who was in the Decio home. Time Magazine had him on their cover, back during the mobile home era of the industry. The photos below were provided by Terry Decio to MHProNews.
Art’s contribution to the efforts of moving manufactured housing from the ‘trailer house’ and ‘mobile home’ eras into modern manufactured housing are not easy to measure. His family and colleagues have much to be proud of as his life is remembered and celebrated.
What has been described as his authentic example of industry leadership that benefits the many should inspire us today and for years to come. MHProNews wishes its sincere condolences to all of those touched by his loss.
As the above reflects, Art Decio will truly be missed by many.
Again, our sincere condolences to all of those touched by his loss. © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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