Furniture may have been Art Van Elslander's business, but Detroit always has been his heart.
Van Elslander opened his first furniture store in 1959 in East Detroit, now called Eastpointe.
Art Van Elslander, the founder of Michigan-based Art Van Furniture, died February 12, 2018 at 87 years old.
In 1990, when the annual Detroit Thanksgiving Parade was in financial peril, Van Elslander made a historic donation that saved the parade.
Van Elslander was also very active in philanthropy, supporting a variety of organizations and received a Max M. Fisher Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 1992.
Van Elslander was the most prolific donor, with gifts totaling more than $21 million. of St. John Providence Health System, which operates the two Oakland County hospitals.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been determined.
Grosse Pointe Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber said by email that when the lakefront house was constructed, "It was one of the most expensive here in Grosse Pointe Shores". Last year, his sons Gary and David Van Elslander rode in his stead.
And although his name and the Thanksgiving Day Parade have become inseparable, his contributions to Metro Detroit extend well beyond that piece of philanthropy.
"(He was) just a great man", the Parade Company's Tony Michaels told WWJ's Roberta Jasina. St. John Hospital and Medical Center, whose campus is in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Woods, was a major recipient. After graduating from Denby High School in 1948 and serving in the U.S. Army, Mr. Van Elslander married, started a family and took a job at Gruenwald Furniture.
Van Elslander was the flawless example of how personal success can translate to the public good.
His business acumen was extraordinary, he added, noting how he had built a multi-faceted Art Van with mainline stores that went after the broad middle market, clearance centers within these stores that were merchandised for and promoted great value and the high-end Scott Shuptrine Interiors in several locations, too.
"A dynamic and successful businessman, Art spent much of his life giving back - abundantly - to the community that supported his businesses over the years". "His gifts to our health system - and to many other charitable programs in MI and beyond - have had immeasurable impact on the quality of life for individuals and families within the community".
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