James V. Decker ’51 died on May 11, 2022, in Palos Verdes Estates, California.
(The following was provided by the Palos Verdes Peninsula News on June 1, 2022)
James Victor Decker, a seven-decade resident of Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates, passed away peacefully and surrounded by family at his longtime home on May 11, 2022, at the age of 93.
Jimmy, as he was affectionately known to family and friends, was born on December 25, 1928, in Newton, Massachusetts. His Christmas birthday was emblematic of his life and spirit – selfless, inspiring, compassionate, and forgiving. Jim and Patricia Decker, his loving wife of 69 years, moved to Palos Verdes in 1963; but it was his upbringing in an extended Italian immigrant household that was foundational to the husband, father, grandfather and friend that we all remember.
Jim was raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts, during the Great Depression and World War II, by his mother, Geneva Maccini Fitzgerald, his maternal grandparents, and a trove of loving aunts, uncles, and cousins. The Maccini family proudly lived in the “Big House” which was hand built by Jim’s grandparents Luigi and Celeste Maccini, who immigrated from Parma, Italy. The Big House, while relatively modest in size, was certainly large on character and heritage: pigs and chickens were raised in the yard, salamis were hung, tortellini were rolled, and grapes were stomped and barreled.
Jim attended Wellesley High School and starred as a three-sport athlete in football, hockey, and baseball. He was a widely coveted athlete and upon graduation from high school enrolled at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He continued to play multiple sports, but it was his prowess on the football field for which he was best known. As Bowdoin’s quarterback, he led the Polar Bears and established single season and career passing records that stood for more than four decades.
After graduating from Bowdoin, Jim served in the United States Navy and married Pat Perry, also from Wellesley. He then set course on a storied forty-year career as a salesman and executive in the apparel industry with the Palm Beach Company and Evan-Picone. Apparel and sales were a natural fit for Jim given his charisma, ability to engender loyalty, and a strong work ethic that was established in his youth. He was humbly proud of his early career accomplishments including his work in the 1960s selling countless blue blazers and white dress slacks for guests to the newly opened Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii, a venue and state that became a special destination for his family for years to come.
Jim’s early career required the family to relocate frequently. When Jim and his wife, Pat, moved to Palos Verdes in 1963 with four kids in tow, it was simply the sixth stop in nine years. Several years later they had their fifth child, and there would not be a seventh stop. Palos Verdes become their permanent home and they became fast friends with their neighbors – the Lunada Bay Rat Pack was formed. Decades of great memories ensued and Jim chose to commute to New York from Palos Verdes for over a decade so as not to disrupt the special household that he and Pat had developed in Lunada Bay.
Through his 93 years, Jim Decker always remembered where he came from. He had a mantra of “it’s all about the family” and he truly lived it. He was raised in a family-first culture, fostered it through his life, and imparted the importance to his children and grandchildren. His happiest days were working in the yard, watching football, and enjoying food and wine with family – a throwback to an era when simpler was better.
James V. Decker was preceded in death by his daughter Melissa (Joe Lundergan), and is survived by his wife, Patricia; four children: Vicki Schulze (John), Mark Decker (Carolyn), Tracey Mitofsky (Alan – deceased), Dean Decker (Alyson); and eight grandchildren: William Schulze, Nicholas Schulze, Robert Decker, Madeline Decker, Cate Decker, Christine Decker, Caroline Decker and Michael Decker.