Philanthropist Helen DeVos dies


Helen DeVos. Courtesy GVSU

Helen J. DeVos, a philanthropist known for her support of children's health, Christian education and the arts, has died at 90, her family said today.

DeVos died Wednesday of complications from a stroke, following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia, her family said.

DeVos died in Ada. Funeral arrangements are pending as of Thursday morning.

She was the wife of Rich DeVos, who co-founded the Ada-based direct-sales company Amway and owns the Orlando Magic of the NBA, and she 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.

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

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, such as Grand Valley State University, which called her one of its "most steadfast supporters."

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.

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