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Meijer remembered as a “great boss” and an “inspirational leader”

People slowly pass Meijer's casket Tuesday to pay respects.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
People slowly pass Meijer's casket Tuesday to pay respects.

Hundreds of people have been lining up this evening to pay their final respects to Frederik Meijer. Meijer operated nearly 200 stores throughout the Midwest. He died Friday after suffering a stroke.

A public visitation service is going on at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park through 10 o’clock tonight.

A line stretched all the way outside the park. People slowly made their way past mostly black and white photographs and some color videos of Fred and his wife Lena; eventually passing by Meijer’s open casket.

Duke Vandenberg worked in Meijer’s buying office for 36 years. He says Fred was a “great boss” who always took time to chat, even on the weekends. “Fred would casually come by to talk 10-15 minutes just about business in general most Saturdays,” Vandenberg said, “He was no different than the rest of us.”

Meijer’s Dutch immigrant father opened his first grocery store when Fred was 14.

Maurice Benoit never worked for or with Meijer. But he says everyone in the region has been or will be affected by Meijer’s philanthropic contributions; particularly to the medical industry in Grand Rapids.

“Although I’ve been blessed not to have to use them just yet I suspect that many of us will use them in the years to come,” Benoit said, “Not only the Meijer Gardens that we’re standing in here today the Meijer stores that we shop in but his legacy is no doubt going to go on for years and years.”

People unable to pay their respects in person can sign an online guest book. A private funeral service is tomorrow at a Grand Rapids church.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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