Art Van Elslander, the founder of Michigan-based Art Van Furniture, died February 12, 2018 at 87 years old.

Van Elslander founded what became one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the United States.

He was born in 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, served in the U.S. Army and eventually opened his first furniture story in 1959 in East Detroit.

Art Van Furniture ultimately grew to more than 100 stores throughout the Midwest with nearly 4,000 employees before selling the business in early 2017.

Van Elslander was also a philanthropist. In 1990, when the annual Detroit Thanksgiving Parade was in financial peril, Van Elslander made a historic donation that saved the parade. He rode in the parade for 25 years.

He was a major benefactor of countless charities, including, St. John Providence Health System, Focus: HOPE, Forgotten Harvest and the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph.

Van Elslander's funeral arrangements are still pending.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.