Helen DeVos, who backed health, education causes, dies

Associated Press

Grand Rapids — Helen J. DeVos, a philanthropist from western Michigan known for her support of children’s health, Christian education and the arts, has died at age 90, her family said Thursday.

DeVos died Wednesday of complications from a stroke following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia, her family said. She was the wife of Rich DeVos, who co-founded direct-sales company Amway and owns the Orlando Magic, and was the mother-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“We will never forget her unfailing love, strength and devotion that were truly the heart of our family,” Rich DeVos and other family members said in a statement.

Gov. Rick Snyder said the state has “lost a great advocate and philanthropist with the passing of DeVos.”

“Her steadfast commitment to helping others can be seen every day in many ways, but particularly as families are cared for during some of their most challenging times at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids,” Snyder said in a statement. “Our state is a better place because of Helen and the tremendous work she accomplished. Sue and I send our most heartfelt condolences to the DeVos family on behalf of all Michiganders.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said “Helen DeVos lived a life of extraordinary impact. I can think of no better example of faithfulness in action - faithfulness to country, to the community she loved so much, to family who will carry that legacy forward, and especially to God, whose presence she is in today.”

DeVos was born in Grand Rapids, where a children’s hospital is named after her. She married Rich DeVos in 1953 and volunteered her time and leadership as well the support of the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation to an array of causes, including Christian churches and ministries.

Helen DeVos 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, and numerous colleges and universities.

She was a prominent supporter of the Grand Rapids Symphony and was a board member and officer from 1971 to 1990, when she was appointed as an honorary member. She and her husband provided the funding to help the Grand Rapids Symphony make its first commercial recording of works commissioned by the symphony.

Helen DeVos died in the Grand Rapids-area community of Ada Township, an Amway spokeswoman said in an email. Funeral arrangements were pending Thursday.