GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Just days after his death, the West Michigan community is already remembering Frederik Meijer.
"It is by no means an overstatement to say that Fred Meijer changed the face of our state, and the legacy he leaves will continue to affect us in Michigan and America and beyond for decades hence," said Sen. Carl Levin in a Monday statement.
"Fred Meijer was not content to be just a pioneering entrepreneur. As the company grew, so did his lifelong drive to make the world around him a better place," added Levin. "He was an early and eager supporter of the civil rights movement. He was deeply involved in efforts by the Urban League to promote education and equal opportunity."
Memorial billboards along northbound US-131 near 44th Street and eastbound I-96 just before M-6 are already in place. It reads simply, "You will be missed!"
"He will indeed be missed. What a man. What a life. What a force for good in the world," said Levin.
"Fred and Lena and their whole family has been pretty dedicated to Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids will miss him desperately," said Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and his wife Betty Ford.
"He loved this community, and he gave his all to Grand Rapids,"said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. "His philanthropic investments have ensured that there will be a legacy for Fred Meijer that will extend for generations to come."
"There's so many stories coming out about Fred Meijer, and there's a major common theme in all of them: Wonderful family man, smart businessman, and just an incredibly passionate spirit who just touched so many people," Executive Director of the Saint Mary's Foundation Michelle Rabideau told 24 Hour News 8 on Saturday. "He was just genuinely a nice man."
Meijer donated substantial amounts of money to both Spectrum Health and Saint Mary's.
"His spirit touched the lives of many at Saint Mary's," said Rabideau in a statement on Saturday. "We are so grateful for his financial support of our cancer and neuroscience programs, as well as other Saint Mary's programs, over the years."
"Fred was always willing to listen to us when we approached him for support," said Phil McCorkle, president and CEO of Saint Mary's. "He was a great role model for philanthropy in our community, and made many other gifts happen because of his example."
Doctors at Spectrum Health said that though Meijer was not a physician, he saved lives through his charitable donations that encouraged top-notch care.
"With our deepest sympathy we extend our thoughts and prayers to the Meijer family following the passing of Fred Meijer. Mr. Meijer cared deeply about our community and he was a generous and thoughtful philanthropist in each and every endeavor he pursued. May God bless the entire Meijer family during this difficult time of grieving," said a Friday night statement from the Kent GOP.
Meijer was an easy-going man, according to the Meijer Corp obituary. He famously gave out coupons for free ice cream at the Purple Cow to children.
At one local Meijer grocery store on Saturday, shoppers said that Fred Meijer was a great man and that he will be missed.
"I just think he is wonderful, and I'm sorry to hear he passed away," said Cheryl DeYoung, a Meijer shopper.
Meijer pioneered a new kind of grocery store that emphasized providing quality and value.
Another Meijer shopper, Matt Palmer, respected Meijer's achievements in the retail industry and the way he revolutionized grocery shopping. "He is a great man, and I mourn his passing dearly," said Palmer.
"The legacy that Fred Meijer leaves behind is truly incredible," said Palmer.
A public visitation will be held at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on Tuesday.
A memorial site for the community to share their memories of Fred Meijer is available at www.fredmeijermemorial.com.
24 Hour News 8's Tom Hillen and Rick Albin contributed to this report.
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