The Metz Legacy Society recognizes those donors who have included Grand Rapids Community Foundation in their will, estate plans or have created a life income gift to the Community Foundation. Here we pay tribute to those who have passed in the last year, as of June 30, 2023.
Our LGBTQ Fund
Born in Milwaukee, Glen Johnson studied at the University of Michigan and earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Wayne State University Law School. His career as an attorney included work in wealth management, focusing on family and business governance. He embraced life with passion and curiosity and was an art collector, supporter of architecture, a film fan and a reader. Glen served as a board member for organizations throughout Michigan and greater Chicago, including Frederik Meijer Gardens, the Edith Farnsworth House, and the International Sculpture Center. He worked closely with Planned Parenthood as part of his commitment to social justice and was a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ communities. Glen’s devotion to family, friends and his community is his legacy.
Fund for Community Good
Both born in Grand Rapids the 1930’s, and married for 66 years, Willa and Roger Bauer passed away in August 2022 just five days apart. The couple were friends of the Community Foundation for many years, and supported various initiatives in our community and were active attendees of the annual Metz Legacy Society luncheon. At their combined memorial service, memorial donations to the Community Foundation’s Fund for Community Good were received in Roger and Willa’s memory.
Tom and Mickie Fox Building Endowment Fund
Tom Fox was a Grand Rapids businessman and philanthropist who grew the family business, Fox’s Jewelers. With his wife Mickie, he started the Tom and Mickie Fox Family Advised Fund, the first Donor Advised fund at the Community Foundation. In the three decades since, they grew the fund and were enthusiastic grantmakers who took great joy in giving to many causes, including support for children and healthcare. In the 2000s, Tom insisted the Community Foundation have its own permanent home and made a significant, $1 million gift as part of the Community Foundation’s “Building Community Philanthropy” campaign. To celebrate their long-term commitment, Tom and Mickie were awarded the Jack Chaille Community Philanthropy Award in 2007.
Rená Guttrich Fund
Rená was very active in the community, devoting over 20 years to Grand Rapids Community Foundation as executive assistant. Her compassion and giving nature did not stop there; she also led The West Michigan Military Family Support Group for over 10 years and owned/trained multiple therapy dogs whom she took to local facilities to comfort patients.
Rená’s heart to see a need and do what she could to help fill it was remarkable. She cared deeply for her family, and said it was her parents’ legacy of giving that inspired her generosity. The Rená Guttrich Fund was established in her honor.
Herbert L. and Doris J. Vander Mey Fund for Education
Doris Vander Mey was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Nobleton (Toronto), Ontario. After her marriage to Herb, Dori was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but faced that challenge with courage over many decades. Herb and she were involved in many civic and charitable organizations in their life together, and generously gave, including creating an unrestricted fund at the Community Foundation. Dori’s favorite passage was Romans 8:28 and she held firmly to the promises that “all things work together for those who love God.” After Herb’s passing, she continued her support of many schools, churches and mission groups. She was an accomplished painter and potter, with many works displayed at Porter Hills Retirement Village.
Fund for Community Good
John Peterson was born and raised in Southeast Grand Rapids and educated at Baxter Christian School and Grand Rapids Christian High. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, and later joined his father in the family printing business until 1998 when he retired. John married Verna Mae Kooi in 1954. He enjoyed fishing, bowling and golfing, and rode his bike many miles on trails in Florida and the Kentwood area. John was a devoted husband and father, caring deeply about his family. John supported the Community Foundation annually and supported many other causes with his resources. According to his family, he “lived simply, so others might simply live.”
Achille and Irene Despres, William and Andre Scholarship Fund
David Despres proudly served in the US Army during WWII. Later, Dave enrolled in night classes at Grand Rapids Junior College and eventually graduated with a master's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan. David was appointed the first Director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, retiring in the mid 1980's. He was an active member of the Michigan Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Early Risers Breakfast Club. Dave was a longtime member of Blessed Sacrament parish and the Knights of Columbus. Dave and Helene spent time traveling the world and have made plans to support local students through the Achille and Irene Despres, William and Andre Scholarship Fund.
Fund for Community Good
Gene Gilmore was a remarkable representative for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company for 69 years. What fulfilled him was the ability to help families grow through the hard times with the tools of his trade. Gene was a businessman, a farmer, a horseman, a motorcycle enthusiast and the best friend one could hope to have. He had the ability to genuinely connect with people from all walks of life. His larger-than-life presence and his adventurous spirit will be remembered and spoken of among those who knew him for years to come. Gene’s philanthropic giving supported the Community Foundation’s Fund for Community Good, and was activated through a Donor Advised Fund during his lifetime.
Brownie Eberhard Beckering Fund
Lois Beckering was very active in her community. She loved her family and friends as one and had a way of making each one of us feel important. She often spoke fondly of her early childhood memories with relatives in Pigeon, Michigan. She had a special way of keeping her past and present connected while looking forward to the future. She was a loving mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend who will be missed by all.
Ken Betz put his heart into giving back. His generosity and care for others created and improved opportunities for many people. In 2020, Ken said his inspiration to give came from his parents, who taught him that with success comes responsibility. As a result, his philanthropy has focused on education and providing opportunities for women, children and families who have not had the prospects he did. The Betz family were early supporters of Challenge Scholars, a Community Foundation program that ensures students from Union High School can attend college or technical training. The Community Foundation recognized Ken and his late wife Judy with the Jack Chaille Community Philanthropy Award in 2016.
Robert F. and Ella M. Topp Family Fund
Ella Topp graduated from Holland Christian High School, where she met her husband Robert. They lived in Holland, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids over the 57 years of their marriage. She enjoyed traditional hymns, gardening, estate sales, antiques, cooking and artistic pursuits such as framing and decoupage. The family joined Shawnee Park Christian Reformed Church shortly after moving to Grand Rapids in 1970. She was part of the choir and some mercy ministries in her time there. Ella’s planned gift created the Robert F. and Ella M. Topp Family Fund.
B. Kenneth Larm Fund for Community Good and B. Kenneth Larm Fund
Bertil Kenneth Larm graduated from Central High School and Grand Rapids Junior College before receiving his engineering degree from Michigan Tech. He then served two years in the U.S. Army, with time mostly spent in Germany. Ken was a friend and supporter of the Community Foundation for many years, supporting the Fund for Community Good since 2003 and later creating a named fund to support the organization's work. In a 2008 interview Ken said, "I feel that giving back to the community is the right thing to do. I see it as doing my part to strengthen and improve the quality of life here...giving back what the community has given me."