Community responds to loss of Helen DeVos, 90

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It wasn’t long after the death of 90-year-old Helen DeVos that state, community and business leaders started sharing their fond memories of the West Michigan philanthropist.

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins released a statement on Twitter Thursday morning, calling Helen “the heartbeat of the DeVos Family (sic).”

DeVos’ husband, Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, also owns the Orlando Magic. Helen leaves behind her husband, their four children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grand children.

Long after she graduated from Calvin College, Helen DeVos’ impact could still be felt on the school, as President Michael Le Roy revealed in a statement following her passing:

“Helen’s legacy lives on in the many students, faculty and staff she has inspired with her love for Christ and her generosity to Calvin College over several decades. Helen has always had a deep love for Calvin students. She has demonstrated her commitment to young people at her alma mater time and time again, from creating spaces for students to study and gather, to supporting numerous scholarships, to providing opportunities to study off-campus and overseas. Helen has also shown dedication to our faculty by contributing to their research and scholarship and supporting centers and institutes. She and Rich have made a significant contribution to the west Michigan community, and we are grateful for their longtime support of their alma mater. Helen’s family will be in our prayers as they mourn her loss and celebrate her life.”

Helen’s impact was also felt at Grand Valley State University. She and her husband helped secure land and funding for the school to expand its Pew campus and Eberhard Center, as well as the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids. A presidential scholarship for GVSU students showing promise in the music and arts now bears Helen DeVos’ name.

“Helen had a deep passion for the transformative power of education,” said Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas in a Thursday news release. “As a lifelong learner, she was a tremendous role model for our students and everyone she knew. We will miss her kind and generous support and guidance over the years, as well as her friendship. Our hearts go out to Rich and the entire DeVos family.”

Condolences from local and state leaders also began pouring in Thursday morning.

In a tweet, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss called the passing of Helen DeVos “an incredible loss.”

“Michigan has lost a great advocate and philanthropist with the passing of Helen DeVos,” Gov. Rick Snyder stated. “Her steadfast commitment to helping others can be seen every day in many ways, but particularly as families are cared for during some of their most challenging times at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Our state is a better place because of Helen and the tremendous work she accomplished. Sue and I send our most heartfelt condolences to the DeVos family on behalf of all Michiganders.”

DeVos’ family said she died Wednesday of complications from a stroke following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia.

According to information posted online, visitation for Helen DeVos is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday in the Ambassador Ballroom at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel downtown. A private Celebration of Life service will be held Tuesday, followed by a public reception from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Ambassador Ballroom.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Calvin College Van Wesep Scholarship Fund, Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church or The King’s College.