By Rich Pollack
BOCA RATON — Arthur Remillard was a successful business owner, a dedicated family man and a generous philanthropist best known for his support of Boca Helping Hands and for providing the bulk of funding for the organization’s $3 million, 15,000-square-foot resource center.
“He was a man with an unquenchable curiosity and a ready generous heart to help those in need,” said Gary Peters, president of the board of Boca Helping Hands.
A man who supported dozens of organizations both here and in Massachusetts, Mr. Remillard died Nov. 28. He was 87.
He was honored by Boca Helping Hands in October with a special recognition during the annual Boca Helping Hands celebration and was featured in The Coastal Star in November.
During an interview, he talked about his success in the insurance business, about his philanthropy and about how proud he was of his children, who followed in his footsteps when it came to community giving.
“I want people to think of me as a businessman who got involved in philanthropy and who passed the idea of philanthropy onto his family,” he said.
The story of Arthur Remillard, whose father was a janitor and whose family was too poor to think about charity, is an inspirational one.
Growing up in Worcester, Mass., Mr. Remillard joined the U.S. Navy after high school. After his enlistment ended, he went to Clark College in his hometown, graduating with a degree in accounting. He quickly became a partner in five supermarkets, later owned two local newspapers and then went into the insurance business, opening his own agency.
In 1972 he started Commerce Insurance, a major insurer in Massachusetts that at one point insured one in every three cars in the state. He sold the business in 2006 for $2.2 billion.
“I grew up saying I would do well, but I never thought I would do this well,” he said.
Mr. Remillard supported many organizations in his hometown serving those in need, including the UMass Memorial Medical Center, the largest health care provider serving the residents of central Massachusetts, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Mr. Remillard began looking for a cause to support soon after he arrived in Florida.
He Googled food pantry and Boca Raton and right away Boca Helping Hands popped up. Soon he met with Peters and began helping the organization grow to the point where the resource center that Mr. Remillard helped fund now serves about 175 lunches a day to those in need. The building also houses a food pantry that distributes tons of groceries every year, as well as job training programs. Staff members are on hand to help connect those in need with other services.
“It was Mr. Remillard’s unwavering persistence that helped make our shared vision of Boca Helping Hands into reality,” Peters said in a message on the organization’s website announcing Mr. Remillard’s death. “A bronze plaque with his portrait is on the wall in our Resource Center, his name is prominently displayed when you enter our front doors, but most importantly, his giving spirit is felt within every inch of the building that is now our home.” In addition to Boca Helping Hands, Mr. Remillard supported 4KIDS of South Florida and Habitat for Humanity.
Mr. Remillard is survived by Elizabeth Seraphin, his love and partner for more than 30 years; his children, Arthur J. Remillard III and his wife, Debra; Robert P. Remillard and his wife, Deborah; Renee A. Granger and her husband, Lawrence; Danielle A. Haxton and her husband, Michael; and Regan P. Remillard. Other survivors are a brother, James “Bing” Remillard; and a sister, Jacqueline “Jackie” Ericson; 16 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and numerous nephews and nieces.
The family held a private service Dec. 4 in Massachusetts.