Fred Meijer passed away on November 25th a few days shy of his 92nd birthday. He was a staunch and generous supporter of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. My memories of Fred are so wonderful and here is merely a glimpse:
Twenty some years ago, David LaClaire our board chair at the time, invited Fred Meijer to lunch along with me to discuss a gift to the Community Foundation. I remember a warm and real person who asked me a lot of questions about who I was and my family. He and his wife, Lena, had initiated a scholarship fund for the children of Meijer associates back in 1975 and it was understandable that he wanted to know more about the person who was running the Community Foundation now.
The lunch conversation was lively and fun! However rather subtly the discussion changed from the agenda that David and I had fashioned to Fred's philanthropic agenda. His dreams were expansive punctuated by the desire to have a community botanical garden that mirrored those he visited in Europe. It was fascinating. Then there was the time he invited me out to the Meijer Headquarters to see the statues and outside art he had commissioned to realize his vision of a community garden. A huge garage alongside the corporation's parking lot housed these treasures. He was beyond proud with a decided twinkle in his eyes as he looked to the future.
That was something I will always remember about Fred Meijer! Not only innovative, caring, philanthropic but reaching out to the future! He did believe in the positive strength of endowment and he and Lena demonstrated that by establishing Donor Advised Funds for their grandchildren passing the baton of giving back. What a visionary!
There are many stories that people will have about Fred Meijer that will be shared over the next few days and I have many more as well! Thank you Fred Meijer for shining the light of philanthropy for all! You will be missed tremendously! Thank you for a life well-lived! My sympathies to Fred's wife Lena and the entire Meijer family.