I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Helen DeVos, the wife of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, in Grand Rapids at the age of 90. She was one of those people who had an incalculable impact in building flourishing communities with her generosity and, yes, business acumen. Rich and Helen’s philanthropy has been estimated to exceed $1.2 billion over the years, a testament to their deep faith and commitment to be responsible stewards of the financial resources God has put in their hands. In large part through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, they supported scores of Christian churches and ministries, hospitals, schools and civic projects. This intelligent generosity help to provide a model of philanthropic engagement making West Michigan one of the highest per capita giving communities in the United States.
The DeVos family issued a moving statement on the Oct. 18 passing of Helen:
While we grieve her passing, we rejoice in her new life in heaven and are grateful for the countless ways she blessed our lives. We are comforted in knowing that she was welcomed home into the loving arms of Jesus. We will never forget her unfailing love, strength and devotion that were truly the heart of our family.
Although known for her support of health, arts and education, she was also an early and important driver of the family’s Amway business. In an article on the MLive news site, it was recounted that Helen left her teaching job to help Rich and partner Jay Van Andel run their start up – out of the basement in their home. “DeVos and Betty Van Andel have been described as the hidden partners of the direct sales giant,” the article said. In the family, too, she was a driving force.
“There was no question her role was critical in terms of keeping things going on the family front. She was very much the day-to-day chief operating officer of the family,” Dick DeVos told MLive.
Among her many honors, Helen DeVos was presented with The Philanthropy Roundtable William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership and the Clare Boothe Luce Award from the Heritage Foundation.
Funeral arrangements have been posted on the Helen DeVos website.