GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — While Rich DeVos was at the very top of the Amway leadership team, employees say his compassion and energy trickled down to anyone representing the brand.
The Amway co-founder died Thursday at the age of 92.
Lloyd Stearns and his wife Maxine are some of the people who became electrified with motivation thanks to him. Stearns first met DeVos in the 1970s. He was a Michigan State Police detective who was part of the security detail for the ribbon-cutting of Amway’s World Headquarters in Ada Township. President Gerald R. Ford was set to attend.
In 1981, the Stearns became Amway distributors.
“When (DeVos) spoke, he had the ability to make people believe in themself and achieve way beyond what they thought they could achieve,” Lloyd Stearns told 24 Hour News 8 at his Greenville home.
“It didn’t make any difference what you did,” Stearns continued. “You could be a doctor or a lawyer or a janitor and you were the same in his eyes. He was interested in you.”
The Stearnses had great success with Amway in their early years with the company, raking in bonus checks that they’re still benefiting from. The now-retired couple credits DeVos with encouraging ambition they didn’t know they had.
Stearns said he also counted DeVos among his friends. One time, he remembered, his son had to do a job at the DeVos residence and he tagged along.
“We got inside and Rich was sitting there on the couch and he turned around and looked and said, ‘Hi, Lloyd.’ He says, ‘Come on over and sit down and them other guys will take care of everything else.’ We sat there for probably an hour and a half and I just sat there and listened to him,” Stearns recalled joyfully.
Stearns’ description of DeVos — selfless, true to himself and uplifting — matches the memories recalled by Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel, the son of DeVos’ longtime friend and business partner Jay Van Andel. On Thursday, Steve Van Andel called DeVos “a second dad.”
“He has such a great heart and people knew that,” Van Andel said. “If he walked into a room, everybody smiled. If he walked into a room, everyone all of a sudden gets optimistic and starts wanting to listen to his experience.”
Stearns agreed DeVos’ charisma was unmatched.
“I’ve met a lot of people in my life and there’s very few people that have inspired me the way that that man did. He’s got to be one of very few,” Stearns said. “I’ve heard a lot of motivational speakers, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s at the top.”
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