Myrna George Deckert, moved to Baton Rouge to be close to family in 2016. For almost 50 years she was one of the most influential civic leaders of El Paso, Texas. She headed some of the city's most prominent community organizations, including more than two decades as CEO of the YWCA. Myrna died Friday at her home in Baton Rouge, LA. She was honored both locally and nationally for her work, including induction into the El Paso Women's Hall of Fame and, in 2014, as recipient of the prestigious national Fred Rogers Leadership Award in Philanthropy for Children, Youth and Families. When Deckert retired in 2015, this time after eight years as CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, an editorial in the El Paso Times described her as a "community icon" and an ''El Paso treasure." A year later, with declining health, she and her husband, Ray, moved to Baton Rouge to be near their two daughters and several grandchildren. Diana Natalicio, The University of Texas at El Paso, President Emerita, said: "Myrna Deckert was an extraordinary leader, role model, mentor, and motivator for women of all ages and zip codes across this Paso del Norte region. She was an astute strategist, an adroit tactician and, most of all, a tireless doer. An inspiration to all of us, she stepped up without hesitation to tackle many of this region's toughest issues and engaged a broad range of community partners to address them. The Paso del Norte region is a far better place today because of Myrna's leadership, and the many women across this community who are confidently following in her footsteps represent her most powerful legacy." She was probably best known for her work with the YWCA, where she was involved for almost 40 years, taking over as CEO in 1970 and serving until her retirement from that organization in 1992. Under her leadership the El Paso YWCA became the largest in the country. During her tenure, it also became the region's largest provider of transitional housing for women and children and greatly expanded child care in the city, making it possible for thousands of women to become part of the area's workforce. A YWCA branch was named in her honor. Deckert continued to be involved in community affairs, and two years after retiring from the YWCA became chief operating officer of the Paso Del Norte Group, a private economic development agency of civic and business leaders that worked to promote growth in the region. During her time there, the organization also helped develop the Downtown redevelopment plan. Subsequently, she served as CEO of the Paso del Norte Heath Foundation, a private foundation that promotes better health for people of the El Paso, southern New Mexico and Cd. Juarez region through its leadership and grantmaking in health education programs and advocacy. Deckert was born in McPherson, Kansas and grew up in Visalia, California. She moved to her beloved El Paso in 1957 where she and her husband Ray built a life, raised a family and she began lifetime of service to her community. Deckert, is survived by her husband, Ray, two daughters, Shelly Deckert Dick, Kim Deckert Herrera, both of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two sons Charles Ray Deckert, of Luling, Texas and Michael Allen Deckert of Napa, California and 9 grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for next spring in El Paso.
Published in The Advocate from Sep. 15 to Sep. 17, 2020.