Arthur J. Glatfelter, who in 1951 opened the Glatfelter Insurance Group from a desk in the dining room of his Dallastown home, died Thursday at age 88.

He is being remembered as a Marine veteran, relentless supporter of the York County community and an advocate for volunteer firefighters across the country.

"His contribution was so extensive, it's almost immeasurable," said Bob Jensenius, executive vice president of the York County Economic Alliance. "He was totally involved, totally immersed in the county."

Glatfelter served as chairman of the York County Chamber of Commerce from 1976 to 1997. His contributions helped launch the Cultural Alliance of York County and fund the new SPCA facility in Emigsville.

Penn State York's Lee R. Glatfelter Library bears the name of his late wife for his donations to the campus. He started organizations in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to support firefighters. And his company helped build several homes for the York Habitat for Humanity.

"He was like a hat trick in hockey. He donated his personal time, finances and the support of his organization," Jensenius said.

Glatfelter was one of York Habitat's most avid supporters, according to Debbie Krout-Althoff, the organization's executive director.

"He financially supported many builds, but he and his employees also went to the site and helped build the homes," she said. "His generosity and involvement have continued, and Glatfelter Insurance Group is still one of the most supportive companies of our organization."

The company: Nearly 62 years after Glatfelter established the York Township-based company, Glatfelter Insurance Group has grown into one of the largest privately owned insurance agencies in the region.

As of 2011, the company had eight locations and more than 500 employees and earned $256 million in gross revenue that year.

Tony Campisi, president and CEO of Glatfelter Insurance Group, said the company's founder never really retired.

"Art had an incredible level of energy, love of business and love of people. Up until last year or so, he was coming to the office on a daily basis. He always told me, 'I wish I had another 25 years,'" he said.

Campisi worked with Glatfelter for 32 years - with the emphasis on "worked with."

Glatfelter's legacy includes a certain office policy.

"We don't refer to people as employees. We call them associates. Art always felt that's we are - associates. He said no one works for him, they're working with him," Campisi said.

It's a culture that has landed the company among the Best Places to Work in PA during the eight consecutive years the agency has participated in the program.

Also part of the office culture is a commitment to community service that will continue after Glatfelter's passing.

"No one's asked or told to give back. They do it because they want to follow Art's example. It's part of his legacy, and it will continue both in the company that bears his name and countless lives he's touched," Campisi said.

Fire services: Glatfelter, whose insurance company is the largest provider of coverage for volunteer firefighters, began the Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute in Harrisburg and the Congressional Fire Services Institute in Washington, D.C. Both organizations are nonprofit, nonpartisan institutes aimed at educating state and federal governments about the needs of first responders.

"He was a fixture in the firefighting community," said Joe Stevens, chief of Manchester's Union Fire Engine Co.

Glatfelter was known for showing up unannounced at county association meetings and firefighting conferences throughout the region, Stevens said.

"He was a very giving, kind and gentle person who always kept the best interest of firefighters at heart. I can't say enough good things about him," he said. "He was one of those guys who always took the time to stop and shake your hand, ask how you're doing."

John Brenner, former mayor of York City, sold insurance to fire companies for Glatfelter in 1994. A year later, Glatfelter helped Brenner get a job with the Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute. Following that, he contributed to Brenner's mayoral run, as Glatfelter was known to contribute to several Democratic campaigns.

"What I learned in my years of knowing him is you can't find a project and improvement in York County in the last 30 or 40 years that Art hasn't touched," Brenner said. "There's no question Art was a complete champion for York."

Tom Wolf, founder of The Wolf Organization and a local business leader, said Glatfelter was often generous to a fault.

"He was one of the finest people I've ever known, big hearted and generous with his time and resources. I don't think there's a nonprofit in York County that hasn't benefited from his generosity," he said.

The arts: Wolf worked with Glatfelter on several boards and projects in the county and said his friend had a number of passions.

"He really supported the arts. It was his idea to form the Cultural Alliance," he said.

In 2002, the alliance honored Glatfelter with the Art and Soul award for lifetime achievement, and upon receiving the award he said in a York Dispatch story how much he enjoyed listening to the York Youth and Junior Symphonies.

"It's marvelous to hear those kids play," he said. "I don't know what a community would be like without the arts."

During the same April evening, a guest at the event pointed out that part of Glatfelter's success in fundraising for the alliance was his ability to get others involved in cultural organizations.

"They get into it and find it's a growing experience," Glatfelter said. "What do you think this society would be like without volunteers? It would be dead."

Louis Appell, a fellow business leader and philanthropist, said Glatfelter's commitment to York can be found in the many organizations that benefited from his commitment to community advancement.

"His enthusiasm, his foresight and his generosity will not soon be forgotten. His enduring legacy is huge," Appell said.

Obituary information: Glatfelter, who died Thursday at Country Meadows in Leader Heights, is survived by his wife Susan (Wagman) Beecher Glatfelter. He was preceded in death by the late Lee (Rudasill) Glatfelter, his first wife, who died in 1996.

A private memorial Mass will be held at St. Mary's Church. Burial will be in Mount Rose Cemetery with full military rites presented by the York County Veterans Honor Guard. Glatfelter served in Guam in the US Marine Corps during WW II.

A celebration of life event will be announced at a later date.

Glatfelter was born Dec. 12, 1924, in Loganville, a son of the late Arthur and Margaret (Carson) Glatfelter. He was a member of St. Mary's Church in York and was a volunteer member of many boards of community organizations in the York area. He graduated from William Penn High School in 1942.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by daughters Bonnie Flaharty and Vicki Glatfelter of York; grandchildren Brady L. Flaharty of Philadelphia, Melinda Brown of Hanover, and Ryan D. Senft of Denver, Colo., three great-grandchildren; and four stepchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen PO Box 548 York, PA 17405, or to St. Mary's Church 309 South George St. York, PA 17401, or to SPCA of York County 3159 Susquehanna Trail North, York, PA 17406.

- Candy Woodall can also be reached at