BIG RAPIDS – Lena Rader Meijer, who grew up on a farm near Amble, went to school in Lakeview, married retail entrepreneur Fred Meijer, was a longtime member of Meijer’s board of directors and has left a local legacy passed away today, Saturday, at the age of 102.

Lena Meijer pictured at Lakeview Music in the Park in 2019, when the village held a special celebration in honor of its 100th anniversary. — Photo from DN file

She was predeceased by her husband, who died aged 91 in November 2011.

“The blessings of a long and fruitful life outweigh the sorrow of the passing of our mother, Lena Meijer,” Hank Meijer, executive chairman of Meijer, said in a statement released today. “Her gracious and generous spirit and devotion to her family, our business and our community was beyond measure and appreciated by many. She will be greatly missed.”

Lena was well known and loved in Montcalm County. She helped develop the Lakeview Community Wellness Center and Kelsey Hospital in Lakeview and supported the Lakeview Area Community Fund.

Lena received the Quality of Life Award from the Lakeview Area Community Fund in 2014. When she visited Lakeview Music in the Park in 2019, the village held a special celebration in honor of her 100th anniversary.

According to a biography released today by the Meijer family, Lena was born on May 14, 1919, to German immigrants on the family farm near Lakeview. She spent much of her childhood working on the farm, gardening and milking cows, speaking German and English. She graduated from Lakeview High School in 1937 and enrolled at Central Michigan University with the goal of becoming a teacher, but the Great Depression was in full swing, so she chose to enter the workforce at a bank. local.

Lena Meijer pictured at Lakeview Music in the Park in 2019, when the village held a special celebration in honor of its 100th anniversary. — Photo from DN file

One evening, almost out of the blue after hearing enthusiastic reports from her friends, Greenville grocer Hendrik Meijer called her to offer her a job at his brand new Meijer’s Thrift Market. She started out as an accountant and cashier and worked at the store for four years before she and Hendrik’s son Fred went on their first date for a community barn dance. They were married in January 1946 on his family’s farm and visited other grocery stores en route to their honeymoon in New Orleans.

Lena’s involvement in the business grew over the years until the birth in 1952 of the first of three sons: Hank, Doug and Mark. Afterwards, Lena chose to devote herself to their family, managing their participation in sports and group recitals. She was an active member of the Aberdeen School Parent-Teacher Association.

Lena treasured her seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. Fred and Lena have traveled to six continents during their 65 years of marriage and remember camel rides, hot air balloon rides, golf tournaments and bike trips.

Additionally, Fred and Lena have become very involved in the Grand Rapids community through significant philanthropic efforts, including the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory and Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which her love of gardens has contributed to. to inspire.

“For many years she decorated the German Christmas tree as a volunteer at the Gardens. There, as at Meijer, his affection for the dedicated volunteers and colleagues was always evident,” said Hank Meijer. “She and Fred were delighted to welcome visitors to the gardens.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Lena’s name may be made to the Lena Meijer Kindergarten at Frederik Meijer Gardens. A private family ceremony is planned.

Visit for his full obituary.

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