Hundreds attend candlelight vigil for Appell
Mack Johnson, vice chair for the York County Heritage Rail Trail, said he didn't know Louis Appell Jr. very well, but he knew the impact Appell had not only on the rail trail, but on the community at large.
"It's almost too immeasurable to list," he said.
Johnson was among the nearly 400 people who filled York City's Continental Square Friday night, candles in hand, to pay respect to the local businessman and philanthropist whose influence can be seen around downtown and beyond.
The former president and CEO of Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff, a pottery business started in 1889, died June 27 at the age of 92. Appell was regarded as a major contributor to York City, as Downtown Inc named its lifetime achievement award after him and his wife, Jody.
The candlelight vigil occurred, appropriately enough, during the monthly First Friday festivities, when York officials and businesses highlight all the city has to offer. Friends and local economic leaders consider Appell and his family integral parts of the community's past, present and future.
Tom Donley, who served as president of the York County Chamber of Commerce for more than 24 years, said after Appell's death that he "put York on the right path." His financial and intellectual contributions can be found on most of the city's major developments.
That list includes PeoplesBank Park, Martin Library, Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, Royal Square Development (RSDC), Yorktowne Hotel and the Lafayette Club, which was recently gifted by "an anonymous donor" to York College.
Donley said Appell's actions came from a desire to provide a "livable city that all his employees could thrive in."
At his company's peak, Appell led numerous subsidiary companies, including Susquehanna Communications, Susquehanna Real Estate and Susquehanna Media, that totaled more than 3,600 employees, according to previous reports.
The company, which was fifth-generation owned, sold most of its assets in 2005 and 2006, including a $1.2 billion sale of Susquehanna Radio's 33 stations and a $540 million sale of Susquehanna Communications to Comcast, because no heirs were willing to take over.
The vigil: Yorkers gathered at Continental Square, near the York County Judicial Center. The vigil kicked off with a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," performed by Dallastown Area High School sophomore Eli Weary. The crowd joined in as Weary sang.
Following the song, York officials came out to say a few words about Appell. Among those who spoke were Mayor Kim Bracey, state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, and Aaron Anderson, CEO of Logos Academy.
"Whether you knew Mr. Appell or not, it was absolutely evident that he wore on his sleeve, proudly, the love he had for our city, and he cherished the county he called home," Bracey said.
"He wasn't just a community leader: He was the community. He personified it," Schreiber said.
The speakers noted that Appell was a private person and would probably not like the attention the vigil was giving him.
"If you knew Louie, you knew he was quiet and unassuming ... he wouldn't have wanted this to happen, to make a big fuss about him," Anderson said. "We're going to do it anyway."
Anderson was the last to speak before leading the group in a prayer. He encouraged the crowd to enjoy what the city has to offer, embracing what Appell had done for the city.
"Think about his desire for this city to thrive economically," he said.
"I'm going to invite you, as you go out, go spend some money," Anderson joked. "Mr. Appell — I think that'd really honor him."
The vigil concluded with Weary, joined by the crowd of hundreds of people, singing "All You Need Is Love."
Tim Miller, acting executive director for Downtown Inc, said they ended up buying close to 500 candles for the event, and at the end of the night, about 100 candles remained.
In addition to the vigil, the York Revolution announced Saturday that patches in memory of Appell will be worn on the team uniforms for the remainder of the 2016 season. The patch, based on a plaque outside the main gates of PeoplesBank Park, will have Appell's initials, as well as white roses and the seal of York City.
The patches will appear when the Revolution plays its first second-half home game July 15.
Appell is survived by his wife, Josephine (Schmidt) Appell; daughter Helen Fox Appell of Portland, Oregon; son Louis J. Appell III, of San Diego, California; stepsons David Davidson and James Davidson; and stepdaughter Susan Davidson Linton. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Barbara Fox Appell.
A private service was to be held over the weekend, according to Appell's obituary. His family asks that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the Fund for York County at the York County Community Foundation, Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, York County Heritage Trust, York Symphony Orchestra, the Farm and Natural Lands Trust or a favorite charity
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.