Hello, my name is Fred (Meijer) ... and that's how the Grand Rapids, Michigan billionaire and Meijer Thrifty Acres shopping store magnate introduced himself wherever he went in life.
He was always proud to greet, shake hands and welcome folks. He had learned throughout his life the art of respect and how to earn his customers loyalty. He learned what he knew from significant others; older and wiser mentors in the art of loyalty and respect. Who he (us) meet in life helps shape our destiny. In the beginning he had to struggle, but his dreams took him and Lena, his loving wife and partner in life, on a fantastic journey where he never forgot his roots. He had a choice in life to either chase his dream or let the dream catch him. If it weren't for action friends and relatives we would never attain our legacy or destiny. Fred had a zest for life and never retired. When you are a people person you don't stop at age 65. He was extremely active and enjoyed the interactions with others who enjoyed art and sculptures right up to the very end, November 25, 2011.
Fred Meijer was the Volunteers Volunteer at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. He loved the elemental beauty of gardens, but his pride and joy was his sculpture collection presented in a public atmosphere where other people could appreciate and enjoy art. He generously helped create an exceptional international educational facility that people could enjoy long after his passing.
I shall not just glorify Fred in this 6-part story, but the lives of six other notable people he interacted with in younger years that shaped his destiny as a very giving man.
Fred G.H. Meijer was the 13th richest man in America. He had a passion for treating others less fortunate with respect and he cherished others and helped fulfill the dreams of those involved in the many worthwhile projects that benefited mankind. After the barrage of newspaper stories in Grand Rapids Press newspaper about his passing it stands to reason, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that Fred Meijer created his own destiny thru art, sculptures and humanitarian reasons; your health and entertainment. His name appears on many things, but he doesn't own them. The name attached to them is out of respect for his large contributions, which led to our lives being more meaningful.
His Dutch immigrant father, Hendrik, began teaching young Fred the art of conversation when during the Depression Year of 1934, he opened his first store in Greenville. Fred helped his father grow the business after getting home from school just as I did for my father's greenhouse (horticultural) operations in the 195o's. Many things would have died before getting to market and the Depression years were tough in the world of retail business, but it took time and experience before Fred really began feeling the pulse of customers and learned how to respect and reap loyalty. Fred's purpose in senior life was to put a smiles on the faces of all he met wherever his travels took him everywhere and shopping with his wife, Lena. He was forever thinking outside the box of normal billionaire comfort. He put people first giving us better lives through his charitable donations. He was a champion's champion of good causes and entities. He lived the life of common man and not some trumped up snobby moneybag. He was an explorer of the human spirit.
Fred was a titan and a man of incredible spirit and boundless energy. He extracted whatever life could bring him and it is us who reaped the benefits of his generous donations. To Fred nothing was impossible. Even I can remember seeing him or Lena hand out autographed Purple Cow ice cream coupons or without request stand at the entryway doors to the store and welcome customers and pass out ice cream coupons or roll up his sleeves and bag groceries for an overburdened cashier. Bagging groceries was a feel good memory in action -- it's a love potion from bygone days.
He was never too proud to stop, talk and help someone. He used his possibility thinking and positive attributes to benefit mankind whether it was in a garden setting, on nature trails, parks, theaters, hospitals, research institutions and communication broadcasting. His energy inspired others to dream the impossible, but do it and not just wish for it. He put his heart, mind and back into projects. I'm sure he met people who said, 'ya can't do that', but Fred despite sharp curves in life, stopped, reassessed the situation, reasoned and resolved many problems and pressed onward. He flew by the seat of understandings and listened to his gut caring little about the obstructionist in life.
My father always said, "To love what you do is play, but to hate what you do in life is slavery." That was Fred. He had passion, vision and expertise in gaining the trust and respect of customers. Got a dream, go for it, but please don't sit on it!
Remember this is number one of six parts - it's what the GR Press omitted, but given to fire you up about chasing your dreams and destiny. Not even Fred was self made. He was taught and mentored by unknowns.