GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was 1997 — Rich DeVos’ heart was failing and he needed a new one.
As he sat day after day in a London Apartment awaiting a transplant, Peter Secchia’s daily faxes kept DeVos in touch with things back home in those pre-internet days.
“Every day I’d come home and cut up the newspaper and take out the best stories,” said Secchia, describing how he would paste the articles to a piece of paper and fax them to DeVos. That, along with a joke or two, solidified an already strong friendship.
“As a man to man, I will tell you. I loved him,” he said. “I loved him like a father. He had more influence on me than anything I’ve ever done.”
Secchia says you would be hard-pressed to come up with a positive adjective that couldn’t be used to describe DeVos.
“How can he be all those things? How can he be a good friend? How can he be a religious man? How can he be a successful businessman,” says the businessman, philanthropist and longtime DeVos friend. “Out of these friendships and work, you get a lot of connections that … want to make things happen. And Rich wanted to make things happen.”
Secchia used another word to describe DeVos: mentor.
“He taught me the principles of giving. He taught me the values of sharing,” said Secchia.
The man who built a successful lumber business and would be named Ambassador to Italy during the first Bush Administration says Rich DeVos influenced guided many in the community.
“Indirectly. He wasn’t giving me lessons, but I could watch him. And I think the best way to teach is to mentor,” Secchia said. “He could do it and you could watch. But he could also explain it. He could make people rise up and do things.”
The result is a booming downtown, a life changing medical mile and many other things that made Grand Rapids better place to live.
“He didn’t put his name on buildings because he was on an ego trip. He felt, and sincerely felt, that if he put his name on a building he was showing everybody else that he was committed,” said Secchai. “It’s a very interesting story and I home someone writes it the way it needs to be written.”