ALEXANDRIA, Va. — John Erie Decker, 71, passed away Saturday in Alexandria, Va. He was born in Vincennes Sept. 7, 1941, to Irene (Irr) and Lawrence A. Decker, long-time residents of Washington. A student at the old St. Simon’s elementary school and a 1959 graduate of Washington Catholic High School, John returned to the town of his childhood after 37 years as an executive at Ford Motor Company. He stayed fit in retirement by farming, running and doing up to 200 pushups a day until earlier this year when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. One of his hobbies was restoring antique tractors. The pride of his collection — a 1953 Ford Jubilee like one used on the Decker family farm decades ago — was showcased on the dais with a Model T at Ford’s 100th anniversary celebration at the company’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., in 2003. Sharing his middle name with one of the five Great Lakes, John enjoyed using his rare spare time to boat and fish on Erie, the 10th largest lake in the world. John fished on small ponds as a boy and later in life said that when he was young he couldn’t imagine a body of water large enough that one couldn’t see to the other end of it. As a professional, he would oversee automobile manufacturing facilities across two oceans: on the other side of the Pacific in Australia, and over the Atlantic in Europe. He was particularly proud of the work he did to improve Jaguar quality after Ford purchased the prestigious British car maker in 1989. All three of his sons worked in Ford assembly plants in college. An engineering graduate of Purdue University with an MBA from Bowling Green State University, John was an enthusiastic proponent of hard work and higher education. His children attended Catholic schools through high school and went on to graduate from Dartmouth, Harvard, William and Mary, the University of Michigan, Albion, Johns Hopkins, the U.S. Naval War College and Purdue. John is survived by his daughter, Sandra Decker; sons, Jarett, Brett and Steven; grandchildren, Chelsea, Alexandra and Nicholas; brothers, Jerry and Dick; and sister, Gladys Partridge. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church. Burial will be in St. John Cemetery. Visitation is from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Friday at Ed Lee Mortuary. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Washington Catholic Education Endowment, P.O. Box 916, Washington, IN 47501 or the St. Vincent De Paul Society, 815 E. Main St., Washington, IN 47501.
Sept. 7, 1941 - Sept. 29, 2012
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