Helen J. DeVos, wife of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos and a philanthropic leader in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Central Florida, died October 18, 2017 of complications from a stroke following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia. She was 90.
Her husband, Rich DeVos, often said, “Helen was a wonderful wife and the heart of our family. She blessed my life in countless ways and always was an encourager to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Born Helen J. Van Wesep on Feb. 24, 1927, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mrs. DeVos graduated from Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Michigan, and earned a degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids. She married Rich DeVos on Feb. 7, 1953.
Mrs. DeVos volunteered her time and leadership to a number of causes and with her husband, Rich, donated generously through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. They always said they were motivated to give because of their Christian faith and their responsibility as stewards of the financial resources God had given to them. They supported scores of Christian churches and ministries along with health organizations, educational institutions and civic projects.
The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids is named in recognition of her lifelong advocacy for the health and wellness of families. The hospital provides an impressive depth and breadth of children’s health care and is one of the nation’s premier centers of its kind.
Mrs. DeVos had a strong passion in K-12 Christian education in America. She and her husband supported Grand Rapids Christian schools, including the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School, as well as Rehoboth and Zuni Christian Schools in New Mexico that have been providing opportunities for Native American children for over 100 years. They also were generous supporters to higher education institutions including The King’s College, DeVos Communications Center at Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, Northwood University, Michigan State University – College of Human Medicine, Hope College, as well as the Helen DeVos College of Education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.
In addition, Mrs. DeVos was a champion of the arts and known for her support of the Grand Rapids Symphony. She was a board member and officer from 1971 to 1990, when she was appointed as an honorary member. She and her husband also were the founding sponsors of the DeVos Quartet, and they provided the funding to help the Grand Rapids Symphony make its first commercial recording of works commissioned by the symphony. Mrs. DeVos also was the founding sponsor of the Artist-In-Residence program. In 1991 and again in 2007, she was honored with BRAVO! Lifetime Achievement Awards for her many years of support of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Mrs. DeVos also was a board member and life member of St. Cecilia Music Society in Grand Rapids. She and her husband were recipients of the Grand Rapids Arts Council Award.
In addition, Mrs. DeVos was a board member of the League of American Orchestras in New York City; vice chairman of its executive board; chairman of the nominating committee; and recipient of a special honor in 2007.
Mrs. DeVos was a member of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, where she served as president of the Service Guild and member of the Youth Education and Children’s Worship committees. She was a former member of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Awards and Achievements
Mrs. DeVos was presented with many awards, including The Philanthropy Roundtable William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership and the Clare Boothe Luce Award from the Heritage Foundation. Other awards include the League of American Orchestras’ Gold Baton Award, Intercollegiate Studies Institute Trustees’ Award for Distinguished Service and Charles H. Hoeflich Lifetime Achievement Award, Palm Beach Atlantic University Women of Distinction Award, American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarians Award, Salvation Army William Booth Award, Gerald R. Ford Boy Scouts Council Distinguished Citizens Award and Northwood University Distinguished Women’s Award. She also holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from The Kings College, an honorary Doctor of Arts from Grand Valley State University and an honorary Doctor in Humanities from Northern Michigan University.
Mrs. DeVos is survived by her husband, Rich, children and spouses Dick and Betsy, Dan and Pamella, Cheri, and Doug and Maria; grandchildren and their spouses Rick and Melissa, Elissa and Nate, Andrea and Michael, Ryan, Cassandra and Heath, Sydney and Andrew, Cole, Hannah, Katie, Ben, Jessa, Addie, Dalton, Micaela and Jordan, Monreau and Olivia; and great-grandchildren Clara, Sloane, Remington, Richard, Wilhelmina, and Taggart.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Calvin College – Van Wesep Scholarship Fund, Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church or The King’s College.
Arrangements are pending and will be posted on www.HelenDeVos.com as soon as they are available.