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More than 700 pay respects in Grand Rapids during Helen DeVos Celebration of Life


The funeral of Grand Rapids philanthropist Helen DeVos is a private service. However, at 2 o’clock this afternoon the J.W. Marriott is offering a simulcast.

Yesterday at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel during a public Celebration of Life honoring Mrs. DeVos hundreds gathered expressing their condolences. WGVU was there.

“You know, you can’t really express your sympathy well in words but hugs and handshakes, it’s about all you can do.” Donijo DeJonge expressed her sympathy to the DeVos family inside the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Ambassador Ballroom, as did U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga.

“You know, obviously family is reliving great memories and she was a very special, special lady and special family.”

The Helen DeVos Celebration of Life was a six hour visitation. WGVU was there at the midway point when more than 500 people had stopped in to pay their respects.

“In fine, Mr. DeVos fashion he wanted to know how things were going with me? How is it in Washington? And it’s like, ‘Look I’m here for you’ but he has this amazing ability to turn it around and have it to be about others.”

“They’ve been such great supporters of the Kent GOP, of our Grand Rapids community, and you just look around and their mark is here, forever, and we’re forever grateful.” DeJonge is the Chair of the Kent County Republican Party. Just last week it honored Rich and Helen DeVos as lifetime achievement award recipients. “So we were able to cherish those moments with them on Monday and, you know, unfortunately Helen passed just two days later. But it was a great event and a great way to say thank you.”

U.S. Rep. Huizenga expressing a personal story, “One of the opportunities I had was to personally express how important the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was and is. I’ve had two of my kids there. One of them airlifted in. I got choked up telling her about it…and she said, ‘You know what? That’s why we did it.’ And it means so much to them.”

Huizenga, like DeJonge and so many others, saying a final “thank you” to Helen DeVos.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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