OUR VIEW: Fred Meijer was a role model to all

By Daily News • Last Updated 3:10 pm on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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A lot has been said about Greenville’s favorite son, Fred Meijer, since his death on Friday evening. Accolades and compliments have been pouring in from across the county.

All of them are well deserved.

Meijer was a model citizen who did Greenville and Montcalm County proud.

Meijer grew a fledgling local grocery store chain his father started in downtown Greenville into a retail force to be reckoned with in the Midwest. Along the way, he amassed a personal fortune estimated in the billions.

But you’d never know that just by meeting him.

Meijer lived with his wife, Lena, in a fairly nondescript retirement community in Grand Rapids. Their condo is nicely adorned and furnished, but far from flashy. They drove around in regular cars that many of us drive — no BMWs or Mercedes. He dressed in clothes purchased off the rack at local department stores — no flashy designer suits. He could be found strolling the aisles of local Meijer stores to do his shopping.

No matter how big Meijer Inc. got or how rich he became, Meijer always had time to come back to his roots in Greenville. He was here when we needed him.

Most of all, Fred was a genuinely nice guy. He was at his glory mingling with strangers at a Meijer store, passing out his trademark Purple Cow coupons for a free ice cream. He conducted his business the right way over the years and treated his employees with great respect. “Just call me Fred,” was his response to almost anyone who wanted to call him “Mr. Meijer.”

Meijer threw himself into philanthropy as his years at the helm of his namesake retail conglomerate began to wane. He changed the lives of thousands of people with his giving. Generations of us will enjoy the recreational trails his gifts helped create.

Generations of us will seek medical care in the hospitals and facilities his gifts brought to fruition. Generations of us will enjoy seeing nature and art at their finest at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

And those are just the gifts we know about. Meijer’s contributions to this community are incalculable. He gave generously behind the scenes when needed. He played a key role marshaling resources to help Greenville leaders develop an incentive plan to try saving Electrolux six years ago. He provided sculptures to display in Greenville Public Schools.

We’re confident his idea of philanthropy to the areas and institutions he served will continue.

Meijer was a friend to Greenville and Greenville loved him in return. His hometown will never forget the legacy he is leaving.

Editorial opinions are a consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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