Shirley Decker has been advocating for Central Michigan Community Hospital (CMCH), now McLaren Central Michigan (MCM), since before its doors opened in April of 1943.
Decker, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday on Jan. 1, began donating to the hospital when she was in her 20s.
“I was young, just starting out more or less, and I pledged money out of my paycheck to help build the hospital,” Decker said. That donation was $0.25 from each paycheck, the equivalent to $3.87 today. “My parents were getting elderly and the hospital was important to them.”
After updates from the original 50-bed facility, MCM, offers 118-bed acute care to the community. It is located on South Drive in Mt. Pleasant.
In addition to monetary donations, over the years Decker has also donated her time to the hospital.
“I was on the board for nine years,” Decker said. “I chaired it once, and now I volunteer a couple days a week, sometimes three.”Volunteer Shirley Decker and Rachel Blizzard, Director of Marketing and Fund Development at McLaren Central Michigan, pose for a photo during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the hospital's emergency department, 2017.
Rachel Blizzard is the Director of Marketing and Fund Development at MCM and the leader for the volunteer services program at the hospital. Blizzard oversees roughly 125 volunteers who run the welcome desk, work in the cancer center, run the gift shop, work in the chaplain program or work in surgical admittance like Decker does.
“They check in with Shirley. Whether it’s visitors or somebody coming in to get a surgery, she’s the front line,” Blizzard said. “She’s also then the liaison between the families, the patient, and the medical staff.”
Decker coordinates with surgical staff and escorts patients' family members to and from pre- and post-op rooms and waiting rooms, and then stays with the family during the surgery.
“She is one of our biggest assets here at the hospital,” Blizzard said. “Everybody loves her, everybody knows her. She’s dedicated, passionate, friendly, spunky; she’s Shirley Decker.”
In her spare time, Decker likes to watch football and baseball. When she was younger she bowled three nights a week.
“I like going to the CMU (Central Michigan University) games,” Decker said. “My nephew and his wife and I have season tickets to CMU football and I have had the same seats on the 50-yard line since the stadium was built.”
Decker came to Michigan when her family moved from Mount Morris, Pennsylvania when she was eight years old. She attended Mt. Pleasant High School where she worked as an editor on the student newspaper, The Stude, which cultivated her interest in pursuing a career in journalism.
She graduated valedictorian and was offered a scholarship to attend CMU. To pay for books, Decker took on a part-time job at Giant Supermarkets, Inc. and Giant Way Inc. The company’s first store was located on N. Main Street and Decker walked to work from school.
“I never did really graduate because the war came along,” Decker said. “We had no men to work and so I got more and more, so I worked.”
Decker’s interest in business began with the purchase and sale of her first car. When she was a teenager she bought a Ford Model T for $75.
“That was a lot of money back then,” Decker said. “I put it in my folk’s yard and I just never drove it, I don’t know exactly why. I sold it for $150 and doubled my money.”
Decker stayed with Giant and worked her way up to vice president of sales and purchases before retiring after 50 years. The company is no longer in business.
Following the death of her husband Warren in 2010, Decker has continued to stay busy.
“I usually have something to do every single day of the week except Saturday and Sunday,” Decker said. “Sunday is church of course and on Saturday I usually clean my house, which I hate.”
Outside the hospital, Decker is also active with many other organizations in the community. Currently she serves on the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation board, the Isabella County Commission on Aging board, the Isabella County Building Authority, the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce board and its Ambassador’s club, the Medical Control board, the Interservice Club Council, and the Stewardship Committee for First United Methodist Church.
“It has made me very grateful for my life,” Decker said of her community involvement. “It’s kept me interested in the community, it’s kept me compassionate, and it’s kept me energetic…I wouldn’t give it up for anything. There may come a time where I won’t be able to drive. I have no problem driving now, but I know as you get older that sometimes happens to you. I can always take a taxi.”