‘A nurturer and a caregiver’: Helen DeVos remembered in GR

Helen DeVos
Flowers, condolence cards and pictures fill Ambassador Ballroom at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel for Helen DeVos' visitation.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Community members had an opportunity Monday to pay their respects to West Michigan philanthropist Helen DeVos.

The 90-year-old wife of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos died Wednesday of complications from a stroke following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia, according to her family. She was laid to rest in a private ceremony at the family’s Memorial Gardens in Ada Saturday.

Monday, a stream of 700 people filed into the Ambassador Ballroom of the Amway Grand Hotel for a Helen DeVos’ visitation. Rich DeVos was among the family members who greeted them.

Helen DeVos was well known for her philanthropic endeavors, from the Grand Rapids Symphony and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

One longtime family friend says Helen DeVos was a person who knew how to be wealthy.

PHOTO: An undated courtesy photo of Helen DeVos (Grand Valley State University)

“She never lost track of who she was.,” said Arend “Don” Lubbers.

The president of Grand Valley State University from 1969 to 2001, Lubbers is also a close DeVos family friend.

“She really wanted to nurture people and care for them. And I think that was expressed in her wealth too,” he said. “Look at the money they gave away. Now, Rich and she were great partners. But Helen was very strong in the commitment to the church, to the community, to individuals, to help. So she was a nurturer and a caregiver.”

Through the years, Lubbers witnesses firsthand what pictures on display at the visitation suggest: a devoted wife, loving mother and a life well-lived.

Lubbers saw sides of Helen DeVos the public may have missed.

Monday, he talked about her sense of humor and her underlying strength and personality because she knew who she was, what she wanted and what she wanted her family to be.

“The success was there because of the business,” Lubbers said.

“I think her role was to see that everyone was well-grounded. And I mean by that, (they) took note of values, and lived by values that they thought were the best. That’s being well-grounded.”

A private celebration of life event for Helen DeVos will be held Tuesday, followed by a public reception from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s Ambassador’s Ballroom.