Biography of Albert Irven Decker
Albert Irven Decker. In the demands which it makes upon its devotees, educational work is exceedingly exacting. The duty of the educator, ostensibly, is to instill a practical, working knowledge into each of his pupils, but his correlative, although less direct, function of instilling character and worthy precepts through his personal influence is equally important. The duty first named calls for an individual of knowledge and specialized training, while the second demands a conscientious and capable person whose life and mode of living provide a fit criterion and example for the minds of youth. When a man is found in whose character are combined these attributes, the early and formative years of future citizens may be safely placed in his care. Such a man is Albert Irven Decker, superintendent of the city schools of Fredonia, a position which he had held for six years, and an educator who had devoted his entire life to his calling.
Albert I. Decker was born at Burnside, Hancock County, Illinois, September 4, 1876, and is a son of J. E. and Eda Ruth (Perkins) Decker. The family is of Holland Dutch origin and originally spelled the name “Dekker,” but upon locating in Pennsylvania, in Colonial times, changed the spelling to its present form. Elisha Decker, the grandfather of Professor Decker, was born in Pennsylvania, became a pioneer of Hancock County, Illinois, and engaged in farming near Burnside, where he died at the age of forty-two years, prior to the birth of his grandson. While he did not live to mature years, he was a man of industry and possessed of good business ability, so that he gained a good competence and was able to rear his children in comfort and to give them good educational advantages. J. E. Decker, father of Professor Decker, was born in 1847, in Ohio, where he lived until he was four years of age. He then accompanied his parents to near Burnside, Illinois, and while living on his father’s farm there completed his primary education in the district school. Later he attended Abingdon (Illinois) College, from which he was duly graduated, and entered business as a grain dealer. For a time he also served in the capacity of telegraph operator at Burnside, Illinois, but in the spring of 1884 came to Kansas and located on his farm, 2½ miles west of Lafontaine, in Wilson County, where he had since made his home. Mr. Decker had developed a handsome and valuable property, with a full set of modern improvements and substantial buildings, and bears the reputation of being a skilled farmer and business man and an honorable, upright citizen. A republican in his political views, he had served as township trustee for several years, and had also acted in the capacity of justice of the peace. Since his youth he had been a member of the Campbellite Christian Church, and he is now active in its work and movements, being an elder therein. Mr. Decker was married in Hancock County, Illinois, to Miss Eda Ruth Perkins, who was born at Burnside, Illinois, in 1857. Four children have been born to the union, namely: Albert Irven, of this notice; Elmer, who died at the age of eighteen months; Alice, who married J. H. Risinger, and resided six miles south of Fredonia, on a farm; and Homer, who is station agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, at Lafontaine.
Albert I. Decker received his early education in a rural school in the vicinity of Lafontaine, to which community he had been taken by his parents when he was eight years old. In 1893 he entered the old Kansas Normal College, at Fort Scott, which he attended for two years, and began teaching in 1895. The next year was spent at his father’s home. In 1897 he again had charge of the home school, west of Lafontaine. In the spring of 1898 he enlisted in the Twenty-second Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry, from the Normal School at Emporia. His regiment was sent to Camp Alger, Washington, D. C., where it spent the summer. The regiment was returned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in the fall of the year, where Professor Decker contracted typhoid fever, for which reason he was not honorably discharged and mustered out of the service at Leavenworth, Kansas, until the spring of 1899. During the next two years, he again taught in the country school, six miles west of Fredonia, and in the spring of 1901 again entered the State Normal School at Emporia, from which he was graduated in 1905, receiving a life teacher’s certificate. In 1917 he was given the degree of Bachelor of Science by the same institution. In the fall of 1905 Professor Decker became principal of the Humboldt (Kansas) High School, a capacity in which he remained for two years, and in the third year of his residence there was made superintendent of the schools of that city, and acted as such three years. In 1910 he was offered and accepted the position of superintendent of schools of Fredonia, and had continued to direct the school system here ever since. He had instituted a splendid system of school supervision and management and now had under his charge three schools, twenty-eight teachers and over 1,000 scholars. From the start, of his career Mr. Decker was exceptionally well fitted for his chosen line of labor, and for the duties and responsibilities involved, and he had invariably given his best efforts toward the development and growth of the institutions under his charge. He had had a personal interest where some others might have felt only a business obligation, and had established in the hearts of his students and in the records and traditions of the schools a warm tenderness and respect. Professor Decker is a valued member of the Kansas State Teachers’ Association and the Southeast Kansas Teachers’ Association. Fraternally, he is affiliated with Constellation Lodge No. 95, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of Fredonia, and is an ex-member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He votes the republican ticket. With the members of his family, he resided at his own home at No. 1205 Monroe Street.
Professor Decker was married in 1906, at Baileyville, Kansas, to Miss Lavonia Hickey, who was born in Tennessee, but was reared in Kansas, to which state she was brought by her parents when she was less than one year old. To Professor and Mrs. Decker there have come two children: Dorothy, born January 23, 1908; and William, born March 17, 1913.