In Elkhart, the name Benny Russo is synonymous with helping others.
Russo, who died in 2016 at age 79, had a special place in his heart for senior citizens and those less fortunate than himself. That’s why, in 2017, the Council on Aging created the Benny Russo Community Award.
This story by Rasmus S. Jorgensen originally appeared in The Elkhart Truth.
This year’s Benny Russo Community Award was bestowed to local business leaders and philanthropists Art Decio and Rex Martin for having similar character, accomplishments and stature in Elkhart County as Russo and for reflecting the values he demonstrated in his life.
Decio, when he was in his 20s, joined his family’s struggling business and took it from the garage to becoming one of the three largest manufactured home builders in the U.S., according to the Council on Aging.
At age 35, Decio was featured in a TIME Magazine article entitled “Millionaires: How do they do it,” proving that even in the 1960s his results with Skyline Corp. deserved national recognition.
He has worked locally and nationally, serving on boards of educational, religious and civic organizations, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He has been chairman of Holy Cross College and fulfilled several presidential appointments to national commissions.
Decio has received honorary degrees from eight institutions of higher learning, including University of Notre Dame.
Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, R, said people like Decio and Martin don’t come around often.
“They have employed hundreds of people in their two businesses and are and continue to be a real credit to the City of Elkhart,” Neese said.
Neese said that he, as mayor, has had the chance to work with the two, and that he found himself in awe of their business talents.
“I know a lot of people would love to have two people like both Art Decio and Rex Martin,” he said. “I under no circumstances want to see either one of them ever leave Elkhart.”