There are not too many dedicated Christian billionaires. We usually think of philanthropists as individuals on the left with money bourn out of the tech industries.
America has lost one of those rare Christian billionaires. A man whose life and financial resources were spent helping others.
Richard DeVos passed away late last week at the age of 92, leaving behind a legacy of entrepreneurship as well as values.
DeVos died at his home in Ada, Michigan, following complications from an infection. Rick DeVos, his grandson, posted a series of updates on Twitter.
“Early this morning our family’s patriarch, Richard DeVos Sr. went home to join his dear wife Helen with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These next days will be full of great joy and sadness as our family celebrates a life truly well lived and mourns the coming days without him,” Rick DeVos wrote.
“We celebrate Grandma & Grandpa’s incredible legacy of creation & generosity as a generational chapter closes. The next generation has already taken up their standard, and another follows close behind. It is an unbelievable honor to carry the name Richard Marvin DeVos III,” he added in the statement.
“I pray that we may all continue to build on the foundations they have put down for us and I give thanks for the gift of many years — far more than we expected — with an incredible man and Grandpa.
“Anyone who spent any amount of time — as little as a few seconds — with Grandpa knows that he truly, deeply loved people. He was interested in them, in learning what they were thinking and doing. And he was a relentless encourager.”
DeVos was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 4, 1926, and went on to study at Calvin College, before serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Among his many notable business achievements, he co-founded direct selling company Amway in 1959, and in 1991 he bought the NBA Orlando Magic franchise.
“Mr. DeVos’ boundless generosity, inspirational leadership and infectious enthusiasm will always be remembered,” said Magic CEO Alex Martins in a statement.
“Simply, he was the team’s No. 1 cheerleader and the best owner that a Magic fan could ever want for their team. When the DeVos family purchased the Magic, his vision was that the team and organization would serve as a platform to improve the central Florida community.”
Devos and his late wife, Helen, donated to Christian churches and ministries through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. The foundation has been a major contributor to evangelical organizations including Focus on the Family and Family Research Council.
As The Grand Rapids Press reported back in 2009, one of his main ambitions was to bring the long-separated Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church in America back together.
DeVos said at the time that the split, which occurred in 1857, divided families, including his grandparents, and warned that such division weakened each church’s ability to be a “witness for Christ.”
“I think that they’ve been separate for too long, and not with any good reasons anymore. Sometimes, it’s time to rise above the pettiness of those things and move on,” he said then.
Devos, who is father-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was also a big donor to the Republican Party. In 1987, he was was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan to the Presidential Commission on AIDS.
Betsy and her husband Dick had, in recent decades, took on the mantle of the senior Devoss to become themselves two of the most generous Christians in American history. They have a record of donating millions to everything from missions efforts to funding education programs for minority students in inner-city schools.
They had taken the lead from the senor DeVoss.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement that DeVos was both a great entrepreneur and a “great American.”
“He used his business to empower others and advance the universal values of freedom, opportunity, compassion, and personal responsibility. Rich made his country and his community better, and he was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather,” Bush wrote on Thursday.
“I know his family will miss him dearly. Laura and I send all the DeVoses our sincere sympathies, and we hope they take comfort in knowing that Rich and Helen are united again.”
The businessman is survived by five children, two sisters, and several grandchildren. Funeral services have been set for Sept. 13 at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.