The anchor of the family
Although she never would have said so herself, Helen DeVos truly was the anchor of her family.
On October 18, 2017, she died at the age of 90, leaving in her gentle wake a life lived with dignity, grace and an uncommon compassion for others. It extended not only to her family and friends, but to countless others who will benefit for decades from her legacy of love and philanthropy.
Her greatest legacy was the family she created with husband, Rich, who died September 6, 2018, including children and spouses Dick and Betsy, Dan and Pamella, Cheri, and Doug and Maria; grandchildren and 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.
Publicly, Helen was perhaps best known as the wife of Amway Co-founder Rich DeVos.
But in closer-kept circles, she was the quiet gal who graduated with 30 other teens – 10 boys and 20 girls – from Frankfort High School during World War II, the only child of educators who instilled in her the principles of a servant’s heart.
She was the 4-year-old girl whose feet hadn’t yet reached the floor from the piano bench where she sat and took lessons from her own mother. By 14, she was playing Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” with expression beyond her years.
Years later, she was the loving mother who cuddled up to her four children at night and, using a quarter to draw a circle for a clock, taught them how to tell time.
Though one circle of acquaintances read like a “Who’s Who” of global leaders, Helen never lost touch with the friends she made early on, including those who belonged to a potluck group. They included an assembly line worker, a teacher, and a small business owner.
Even though she grew up partly in the elixir of a lakeshore town with its sweeping dunes and beaches, Helen was the last member of her extended family to learn how to swim well.
Which hardly explains why, as a young woman, she wed a man whose many early adventures were tied to sailing.
But marry she did, to an entrepreneur who courted fortune and with his business partner, parlayed a dream into a global enterprise and household name.
Helen DeVos was his partner and champion every step of the way.