GRAND RAPIDS (AP) – Billionaire retail pioneer and philanthropist Fred Meijer shared a love of serving others with another Grand Rapids fixture, former President Gerald R. Ford, according to the late president’s son.
Steve Ford was among those on Wednesday eulogizing Meijer, 91, who died Friday at Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids after having a stroke in his home.
“He loved serving people. That’s what my dad did,” Steve Ford said at a private memorial service at a Grand Rapids Township church, according to The Grand Rapids Press.
“They had great character, great integrity of wanting to go out and help others and be of service,” Ford said. “It adds more value to our lives, more depth, because we had these fathers.”
Meijer was a native of Greenville, where his Dutch immigrant father Hendrik opened a grocery store in 1934. The son built the regional retail powerhouse Meijer Inc.
Ford also expressed his gratitude for Fred Meijer’s work on helping to create the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. “If Mom and Dad were here, they would never be able to thank him for his generosity of putting together the museum and the library,” Ford said. “He did a lot in putting that together.”
About 1,500 people attended the memorial service, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Amway Corp. co-founder Rich DeVos and Steelcase Inc. Chief Executive Jim Hackett.
Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said in an email to The Associated Press that about 5,000 people attended Tuesday’s visitation at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. That’s where Meijer was to be buried Wednesday.
His grave will be in the Michigan Farm Garden, a replica of the Montcalm County childhood home of his wife, Lena, his son, Doug Meijer, told the newspaper.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)