A history of John W. Decas’ contributions to education

Sep 23, 2019

To The Editor:

Regarding the renaming of the new elementary school, on behalf of my family, may I offer some history.

In 1968 our grandfather William Decas presented to Harold C. Cleveland, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, a check for $40,000 towards construction of a new school. The land it was to be built on had already been donated by our grandfather to the town and the school was to be named the John William Decas School, after our uncle who had been killed in WWII at the Battle of the Bulge. John had attended the Everett Memorial School and Wareham High School. In fact, the Decas school has some of his schoolwork framed. At the receipt of the donation the Selectmen in attendance noted that this donation would benefit every child in Wareham.

Our grandfather held the belief that education could open doors for everyone. He learned English in the basement of a church. He was mocked for putting our mother on the train to Boston to attend college – why are you bothering his colleagues said, she will only get married and have children. His reply – she is my future.

When he passed away, his obituary noted donations were to be made to the John William Decas School.

When his wife Esther (Papageorge) Decas passed away, the obituary made the same request. In both cases many donations including from Decas Cranberry Co, were received on their behalf. To benefit the children of Wareham.

Our mother inherited that lifelong dedication to education and was a frequent donor (and annual classroom reader) at the school. In 2003 she made a donation of $300,000 to the John William Decas School that according to the School Superintendent at that time, was the largest donation made to a public school in MA. At the ceremony honoring her extraordinary generosity and dedication to the children of Wareham was noted.

In our mother’s obituary, donations among other worthy Wareham causes were earmarked to the John W. Decas School. And again, there were many generous donors, including the Decas Cranberry Co.

We’ve lost a lot of history in Wareham recently and for many long-time residents it hurts to see it happen.

It would seem the most inclusionary option would be to recognize the contributions and generosity of two lifelong resident families whose motivations were in the best interests of the children of Wareham.  Wareham residents benefit daily from the donations of the Decas and Minot families – whether it’s hiking through Minot Forest or sending your children to school. After all, the Tobey Homestead may be gone, but it’s still Tobey Hospital.


Cynthia K. Parola