Van Elslander was longtime supporter of Capuchins, Solanus Center

Van Elslander Van Elslander

Detroit — Art Van Elslander, founder of furniture chain Art Van Furniture, passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer on Feb. 11. He was 87.

Van Elslander, a Detroit native, was a longtime supporter of the Detroit-based Capuchin Province of St. Joseph and the Catholic Youth Organization of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

His funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 16 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

On Dec. 17, 2017, Van Elslander donated $20 million to the Capuchins to expand the Solanus Casey Center, 1780 Mt. Elliot St., and improve the surrounding neighborhood.

On the heels of the Nov. 18 beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey, the gift was one of the largest the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph ever received.

“Mr. Van Elslander was very devoted to Blessed Solanus and was a great friend of the friars for many years,” said Bro. Michael Sullivan, OFM Cap., provincial minster of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph. “We pray that he rests in peace.”

At the time of the gift, Van Elslander said he remembered his dad going to visit Blessed Solanus and has since been a supporter of the Solanus Casey Center and various Capuchin ministries in Detroit.

“Growing up in Detroit, I remember my day going to see Father Solanus when he needed help and guidance,” Van Elslander said. “Father Solanus still offers that hope to so many through the work of the Center and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and I am privileged to honor his legacy in a way that will benefit the entire community.”

Van Elslander’s gift includes plans for a 9,100-square-foot building that would house the center’s offices, gift shop and a new café with outdoor seating, an additional 250 parking spaces, a redesigned east entrance with a larger space for confessions and counseling, plus expanded green space for gardens, stations of the cross, an outdoor votive chapel and space for outdoor Masses.

“Art Van Elslander has been devoted to the city of Detroit and to the Capuchins for many, many years,” said Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center. “We are deeply saddened to learn this news. He was a dear friend.”

In addition to his donations to the Capuchins, Van Elslander was a supporter of Detroit’s CYO.

“In the past he was a big supporter of the CYO and its programs,” said Christopher Werner, director of the CYO. “He was a big sponsor of our Corned and Cabbage fundraising dinner. He bought a number of tables as one of the lead sponsors.”

Van Elslander is survived by his wife, Mary; his 10 children; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.