Philanthropist Fred Meijer has died

10:34 AM, Nov 28, 2011   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
File photo of Fred and Lena Meijer

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - A statement released by a Meijer representative reads, "Fred Meijer, Chairman Emeritus of Meijer Corp., passed away Friday evening, November 25, 2011 at the Spectrum Health Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan after suffering a stroke in his home in the early morning hours.

More information on arrangements will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, the Meijer family thanks everyone for their thoughts and prayers and requests their privacy be respected at this difficult time."

Journalist Suzanne Geha first posted the news on Facebook and Twitter.  WZZM 13 spoke with Geha at her home Friday night.  Geha said she did not get the news directly from the Meijer family, but confirmed Meijer's death through other sources.

Geha was just at an event with Fred and Lena Meijer earlier this month.

Fred Meijer would have turned 92 in December.

Meijer founded his supermarket chain in Greenville in 1934.  The chain now includes 190 stories in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

The Greenville grocery launched by Meijer's father grew and grew into superstores that branched out across Michigan and the midwest - a retailing concept now copied around the world - that started in West Michigan with Meijer's values.

He once said, "One of the things I'm very very serious about, we make a promise, we deliver on it. We don't want to make more money we want customer to have better value. If we do it right, we will have people that treat our customers better -- isn't that what we want? "

Meijer took that philosophy to heart -- his wife Lena, was once a store employee. Hank, one of the couple's three sons, now runs the corporation.

Meijer marveled at the world beyond West Michigan. Take Five's Catherine Behrendt rode with him as he prepared to pedal through the Netherlands 20 years ago.

In his retirement, Meijer maintained his humor handing out coupons to customers saying, "Good morning, these are for kids under 100 ...and you got 50 years to use 'em."

He also had a positive outlook. He said, "I've had fun all my life, I mean I've had a really wonderful life...I hope you have as much fun in your life as I've already had. I don't really have regrets i just have constant amazement over the way the world has changed."

Meijer gave back much to the community he so loved

Opened in 1995, the Frederik Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park is another family legacy that has become a tourist draw.

In 2004, both Fred and Lena's names were given to Spectrum's new heart center, a thanks to their fundraising contributions of more than $33 Million dollars.

"It pleases me that we live in a city that has better health care than it might if we did not live here we were committed to making downtown a better place," he said.

Another major Meijer donation restored Grand Rapids Civic Theatre to its original majesty.

He said, "I believe in enlightened selfishness, you do things to please you, at the same time its nice you do things that are nice to improve society."

Meijer had hoped to give even more. He purchased the Grand Rapids Golf Club in hopes of turning it into a wildlife park. But, voters chose lower taxes over a larger zoo.

He did manage to bring people closer to wildlife in another way as he paved nature trails around his hometown

"I think of all the things I've done in my life, and contributed money to, the trails are the top of the list," he said back in 2007.

Ever humble - Meijer reflected decades ago - on his. He said, "No one of us mean too much to this world... we just go through it and in 50 years from now, nobody knows who we were. "

Future generations will likely prove him wrong.

Meijer leaves behind his wife Lena, and three sons Hank, Doug and Mark.

Stay with WZZM 13 News on air and at for more information and reaction to Meijer's passing.

To learn more, click HERE.

Most Viewed Articles

Most Watched Videos