Fred Meijer

Happy Trails to you, Fred

December 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Tuesday afternoon found us at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to attend a visitation and pay our respects to a man we had personally come to know as one without equal – Fred Meijer. We were not there as reporters to cover Fred’s passing but rather as two of thousands, that afternoon and evening, who felt compelled to gather and reminisce with one another and Meijer family members about the life and times of Fred and the role he played in all of our lives. The “six degrees of separation” theory refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth. That theory did not apply to Fred Meijer. In Fred’s case, it was more like one degree of separation. Is there a person in West Michigan that does not have a Fred story to tell? Certainly everyone present last Tuesday could attest to that. So much for computer-age social networks, Fred accomplished much the same with countless thousands of peoples in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Fred was a man of the people who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. If you crossed paths with him, he was always graciously approachable. In conversation, you became his new friend. He learned your name, what you did for a living, and how you felt about things in general. Both parties were enriched by the encounter and parted ways having learned something new and possibly, at the same time, enjoying a good laugh, oftentimes at Fred’s expense. Is there another billionaire anywhere who has freely made himself available to his fellow man more than Fred Meijer? We think not. Your reporters, the Hills, had the good fortune to meet Fred numerous times in covering events where he was present. Sometimes, also, it was just happenstance. It could have been at Meijer Gardens itself, where we are members, or it could have been at one of the local Meijer stores while we were shopping. Two occasions that stand out in our minds occurred while we were covering local events for the Squire where Fred was the focal point. On one in 2008, Fred was the guest of honor at a […]


December 1, 2011 // 0 Comments

GOP mourns Fred Meijer Dear Editor, With our deepest sympathy we extend our thoughts and prayers to the Meijer family following the passing of Fred Meijer. Mr. Meijer cared deeply about our community and he was a generous and thoughtful philanthropist in each and every endeavor he pursued. May God bless the entire Meijer family during this difficult time of grieving. Sam Moore Kent GOP Chairman Groups’ tactics questionable  The CRNA (Central Rockford Neighborhood Association) and/or a sub-group of CRNA called Concerned Citizens for Responsible Re-development appear to have an “End Justifies the Means” attitude when it comes to their perceived contamination of the site of the former Wolverine World Wide Tannery. In spite of scientific testing, due diligence on the part of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and private soil and water testing laboratories, the CRNA refuses to accept the empirical data and results indicating no unacceptable levels of contaminates on this site. In a recent 100+ page petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the group(s) made numerous false statements and knowingly lied in several instances. When confronted by city staff and elected officials about these lies, they responded “yeah, we probably shouldn’t have put that in there, sorry about that”. I can only assume, that by petitioning the EPA, they wish to have this agency also involved with assessing the site based upon the falsehoods, misrepresentations and outright lies found in their petition. It seems as though they wish to have the site declared contaminated and will not accept any other outcome to their efforts, misguided as they may be. On a personal note, these concerned citizens claim that the reason the City of Rockford built a new ground/well water treatment plant and abandoned the surface/river water treatment plant, where Reds on the River currently stands, was due to the increasing contamination from the Wolverine World Wide Tannery. This is blatantly false. I was involved, from day one in the process of exploring options and the building of the new water treatment facility. During my years as superintendent of the Rockford water treatment plant and as Director of Public Services for the City of Rockford, the surface water treatment plant never had any violations […]

Just call him ‘Fred’

November 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

Meijer book-signing event an evening of fun by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Wednesday evening, Nov. 11, as Fred and Lena Meijer walked through the entrance of North Rockford Middle School, they were greeted by someone who said, “Hi, Fred. How are you?” With a big grin on his face, Fred’s quick-witted response was, “You don’t ask a 90-year-old man a question like that unless you have the rest of the day for the answer!” Thus set the tone for an evening of fun. Fred—as always, he insists that everyone call him by his first name—and Lena were in town for a Rockford Area Historical Society sponsored book-signing event. The featured book was “Fred Meijer – Stories of His Life,” authored by Bill Smith and Larry ten Harmsel, who were also present. A near-capacity crowd filled the school’s auditorium as Terry Konkle, president of the Rockford Area Historical Society, welcomed everyone present to a short program prior to the book-signing. After a brief and hilarious video—Fred was seen and heard singing “Happy Trails to You”—ten Harmsel, historian for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and one of the book’s authors, read an excerpt from the book from a time when Fred was a boy of 13. Ten Harmsel then introduced his co-author, Smith, a Meijer Corporation employee for over 40 years. The banter of both men was lighthearted as they led into the introduction of the guest of honor, Fred Meijer.   Fred, as he always does, held everyone in the palm of his hand as he spoke lovingly of his bride of nearly 63 years, telling everyone, “She is only 39 years old and she’s the boss and always has been.” Lena loved it and so did we. He went on to introduce his personal assistant, Pam Kleibusch, who has been his “right-hand woman” at Meijer Inc. for 52 years. Fred finished by saying, “The grocery business is serious business. We’ve got to pay the bills, do the job, and have fun along the way.”   The audience then exited to the foyer for the book-signing and light refreshments provided by the Historical Society. Everyone present that evening had arrived with a previously purchased book or bought one that night at the door. […]

Fred Meijer ups ante in support of trail

September 17, 2009 // 0 Comments

                        by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL For maybe the second time in his life, Dave Heyboer, chairman of the Friends of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (Friends), was struck speechless. It was Thursday, August 7, and Heyboer had just been presented a check for $502,240 from the Meijer Foundation to further augment a million dollars that had been previously granted some years ago. This latest donation was gifted to provide the 20% matching monies to a recently received federal grant of $2,240,000 to be used toward the final engineering and further paving of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (FMWPT). “It was money sent from heaven,” said Heyboer. The 92-mile-long FMWPT is a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) linear park that is the jewel of the state’s Rails-to-Trails system. Traveling north to south, it connects the cities of Cadillac and Grand Rapids. Some 35 miles have already been paved and are heavily used by countless numbers of people as a recreational destination. These users are not only local residents but also Michiganders from around the state and visitors from across the nation as well. The new monies received will go toward the complete engineering of the entire unpaved portion of the FMWPT. The balance remaining will allow paving from Cadillac southward to, hopefully, LeRoy in late spring or early summer of 2010. This southward paving is a departure from the Grand Rapids northward paving that has been previously completed. By completing the engineering, further paving can move forward without delay as new monies come available. Last Friday, September 11, a ceremony was held at the FMWPT staging area in Cadillac that was attended by 150 people. Federal, state and local officials, along with area businessmen, representatives of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, and members of the Friends were present. The guest of honor was to have been Fred Meijer, who was a little “under the weather” and unable to attend. Rob VerHeulen and Mike Julien of the Meijer Foundation ably represented Fred, himself. Friends Chairman Dave Heyboer, who—along with the group he heads—has dedicated a major portion of his life toward the goal of the complete paving of the FMWPT, couldn’t be happier […]