Connecting people through the power of history and culture

 John Decker, a longtime employee of the Stearns History Museum, will receive the 2021 Zapp Historian Award. The honor recognizes his longtime service to the community and his commitment to promoting the rich history of Stearns County and Central Minnesota. 

Each year the Museum presents the award to someone who has made a significant contribution to the history and culture of Stearns County. Decker of Cold Spring recently ended an exceptional 44-year career with the Stearns History Museum. “I just played a small part and tried to perform the best I could during a continuum of SHM’s history,” he said. Decker was hired in 1977 shortly after graduating from St. Cloud State University with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and history. He was vital in coordinating the Museum’s Century Farm program since its inception in 1978 and the annual Bus Tour from 1994-2015. He also was the Museum’s photographer from 1978-1983 and head of the Research Center for many years. Decker served as treasurer of the Oral History Association of Minnesota and president of the St. Cloud Area Genealogists. He received a Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History in 2014. He currently is an at-large member of the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Review Board, a weekly volunteer at the Stearns History Museum, and a member of numerous genealogical and archival organizations. 

“It is rare today to find someone who dedicates a lifetime of service in their community to a single passion,” said Carie Essig, executive director of the Stearns History Museum. “John is serious about his research and is always determined to help those who are interested in their history.” “His easy-going demeanor makes everyone feel welcome,” she added. “His sense of humor is so appreciated, and I have enjoyed working with John since I started in 2018. Thank you, John, for all you’ve done for the Stearns History Museum.” 

The award is named in honor of the Zapp Family, who was instrumental in securing funds to build the Stearns History Museum during the early 1980s. Previous recipients include Annette Atkins, Keith Maurer, Robert Gambrino, Marilyn Brinkman, and Bill Morgan.