Industry Icon Art Decio Passes Away

Art Decio Skyline obit
Arthur J. Decio, 1930-2020. Photo by Barbara Johnson/University of Notre Dame.

Arthur J. “Art” Decio, president and chairman of Skyline Corporation, passed away at his home in Elkhart, Ind., surrounded by friends and family. He was 90.

Mr. Decio took over the fledgling company his father Julius founded and grew it into one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of homes and RVs. He was dedicated to his family, faith, and sharing his good fortune. Not only did he lead the RV and manufactured housing industries, but he had a profound influence on the development of his hometown as an industrial and manufacturing center.

He assumed leadership of Skyline Coach Company in 1952, which had been operating from a rented garage, and expanded the company to include 25 companies with 3,500 employees in 12 states. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1965 and the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart denotes on his induction credentials that Decio was “a marketing pioneer responsible for many inroads to the acceptance of manufactured housing.”

Born Oct. 19, 1930, to Julius and Lena Alesia Decio, his arrival during the Great Depression profoundly shaped 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 that were a guide through his life.

Mr. Decio attended DePaul University in Chicago, and it was during his time taking classes at Marmion Military Academy that he met and married Patricia George, his wife of 59 years.

Art Decio in Service, Philanthropy

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.

Mr. 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 the1968 Democratic Presidential campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and introduced Kennedy at a rally in downtown Elkhart that drew 9,000 people. Within months, he would serve as an honorary pallbearer at the President’s funeral.

Mr. Decio was a trusted adviser to officials in all levels of government and from both parties. He served on the boards of businesses, banks, and nonprofits and received dozens of awards. Three U.S. presidents appointed him 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 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.

Art Decio Notre Dame Trustee

Mr. Decio was a trustee at the University of Notre Dame 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, Mr. Decio was deeply moved and honored to be named a Hesburgh Trustee in 2018.

“Art was a cherished, wise and generous friend of Notre Dame, and a dear friend to me personally,” University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins 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.”

Mr. 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.”

He is survived by his sister, Barbara Decio Vite, of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; 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., as well as 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

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.