April’s Senior Spotlight on Jim Decker: Father, Husband, WWII History-Maker
At The Inn at Belden Village, we are fully dedicated to our residents as individuals. To celebrate the lives of our residents, we will be putting one of our esteemed seniors in the spotlight in our monthly Senior Spotlight blog to celebrate their lives. The heart of our senior assisted living facility is our residents and each and every one of them has lived an amazing life worth celebrating and sharing. Last week we had the chance to sit down with Jim Decker, a 99 year old World War II veteran. It was a privilege to sit down with him to hear him tell his life journey and story, and we’d like to share it with all of you.
Jim has been with us here at The Inn at Belden Village for roughly 8 months. Although he admits living in an assisted living community is different for him, he appreciates how daily activities are made easier and says it’s “ideal” living for him at his age. He jokingly says, “I’ve gained five pounds since I’ve been here because they bring me anything I want. They clean your room, do your wash, come and get it … it’s ideal, just different”. Jim and his late-wife Norma Decker are parents to two sons, Tim and Jim, one of whom called to check in on him during our sit-down. Jim was also eager to show me photos of his wife Norma, who passed away five years ago and spoke about her very fondly.
Among Jim’s titles of husband and father is soldier. After graduating from McKinley High School he was drafted into the army in 1941. Without much choice, he abandoned his plans for college and headed off to war. He trained in Fort Knox and was then sent to the Mojave Desert in California for further training. Jim eventually progressed into a communications sergeant in the 1st Armored Signal Battalion and was managing a message center in Casablanca, Morocco when he sat in an Allied Powers war conference with none other than Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other high-level decision makers.
As we talked about this experience, Jim mused, “I don’t know how I was selected to be a part of the conference, but me and another fellow, we were picked to sit in the room”. Jim was sure to point out, “we were there for weeks, but I never spoke directly to them and communications were kept secret”.
Jim was part of the Seventh United States Army, led by George S. Patton, that toured mostly in North Africa and Southern Europe. Jim’s most vivid descriptions about his time at war were of his profound and life-impacting experience with the Seventh United States Army liberating Dachau concentration camp. He recalls of the liberation, “The Germans had great big rooms and they would tell them (the Jewish people) they would give them a bath, then they turned the gas on them. We liberated Dachau. Oh God, it was a mess”, says Jim about what he saw during the liberation in Dachau, Germany. “They (the Jewish people) grabbed our guns and fought with us because they wanted to kill the Germans. When we went in there, they went nuts … they grabbed anything they had to fight. They wanted to kill the Germans, but I couldn’t blame them.” Thousands of Jews were saved from certain death during this liberation.
The Seventh Army was inactivated in March of 1946, and Jim returned home that year. He earned a bronze star medal for his meritorious service and acts of heroism. After his service he began working for Sugardale Foods as a sales representative where he continued to work for the next 33 years.
We want to thank Jim for his service and bravery. Although he doesn’t consider himself a hero, I think everyone can agree that any man willing to risk his life for this country is a hero. Jim Decker is a very special and interesting man who has lived to see many things most of us have not. We will continue to enjoy having Jim here at the Inn at Belden Village.