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Patricia Decio: Philanthropist, Civic Activist

July 19, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Patricia Decio

Patricia Decio

Patricia George Decio, wife of longtime Skyline Corp. CEO Arthur Decio, died Friday (July 16) at her home in Elkhart, Ind. She was 79.

The Decios were married in January 1951 and moved to Elkhart where her husband developed Skyline into one of the leading manufactured housing and RV builders.

The South Bend Tribune reported that the Decios opened their home to a range of philanthropic and civic events. She had a gift for entertaining and was known as a creative and gracious hostess. From cooking breakfast for Rose Kennedy to hosting a gala for hundreds, she always made it look easy and yet elegant.

Mrs. Decio served on community, church and educational boards and committees, including Aux Chandelles for the mentally handicapped, now a part of  the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County. She was also an active leader for HOME, Elkhart Community Day Care, the Urban League and Elkhart General Hospital Auxiliary. She was a life member of the NAACP. Mrs. Decio served on the board of regents of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., and chaired the board’s Committees on Student Life. She also served on the Advisory Council of the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame and on the University’s Advisory Council for the Performing Arts.

She received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Saint Mary’s College, as well as a 1985 Wall of Fame Award, the highest honor conferred by ADEC. She also was a recipient of the “Outstanding Kindness Award” from ADEC and the Community Service Award of the Elkhart Chapter of the NAACP.

Her love of the arts and dedication to education remained constant throughout her life. The Decios funded the construction of the Decio Faculty Hall and the Patricia George Decio Theatre in the Center for Performing Arts, both on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Of all her community services, one of her proudest was the key role she played in the Women’s Care Center in Elkhart. Her leadership is commemorated in this Center’s inscription: “We would not be serving so many women and babies today if it were not for the vision and faith of this wonderful woman.”

Mrs. Decio, who called herself a “Chicago Girl,” (she was born in Geneva, Ill., and attended college at Mundelein College in Chicago), had an apartment in Chicago and a winter home in Ocean Ridge, Fla. She was a much loved member of the Ocean Club, where she gathered friends and family for vacations for over 40 years. She loved the outdoors and was passionate about walking, golfing and reading non-fiction. She was known affectionately to her grandchildren as “Grandpat” and admired and loved for her great faith, enormous energy and glamorous sense of style.

She is survived by her husband;  their five children: Terrence (Marlene) Decio of St. Joseph, Mich., Jamee Decio of Los Angeles, Lindy (Robert) Reilly of Winnetka, Ill., Jay (Peter) Christman of Simsbury, Conn., and Leigh (Paul) Laird of Willowbrook, Ill.; 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and her sister Marilyn G. Swanson of Marathon, Fla.

Visitation will be held at the Basilica of The Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame campus on Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. The funeral mass and celebration of her life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the basilica. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, University of Notre Dame president, and Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Notre Dame president emeritus, will officiate. Interment will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery on the Notre Dame campus. Palmer Funeral Homes, South Bend, are assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be offered at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.

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