Helen DeVos, RIP

by Jack Fowler

Approximately a year ago, I had the honor to offer a eulogy to Lee Hanley, a conservative philanthropist who left a mark on behalf of freedom and Christian values due to decades of wisdom, leadership, involvement, and selfless generosity. I’m reminded of this with the passing away on Thursday of Helen DeVos, who leaves behind her husband, Rich, the co-founder of Amway, five children (her son Dick, husband of Betsy DeVos, is a trustee of National Review Institute), and many grandchildren — a family, quite special, which in toto has proven to be in love with God, with country, with freedom. And if you’ve been to delightful Grand Rapids, Mich., with that place too.

Mrs. DeVos’s 90 years were spent in pursuit of good things, for others. Philanthropic beyond anything normal, and maybe even beyond imagination, she and her husband, and then their children’s families, proved a bulwark of support for liberty — in particular for Christian schools of all levels — and of many charities often directed to the young, such as the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. And even to a struggling magazine, for which we remain profoundly grateful.

The generosity that Helen and Rich showed was (is!) one concerned with consequence, with results. There is an excellent example of that which we at National Review can speak to. Over the years, by fortune of proximity, we have benefitted by having many students and graduates of Manhattan’s The Kings College intern and work at NR. They are a smart bunch, well-developed young men and women, cheerful witnesses to their faith, friends of our shared principles. Kings was of particular concern to Helen and Rich DeVos, and, not by coincidence, to Lee Hanley and his wife, Allie. At the collegiate level, it is a wonderful thing to see conservative philanthropy truly work, to really matter. And it has at Kings. The education it offers, the results it achieves, is heartening. This comes, in no small part, courtesy of these committed families.

In John we are told: “Jesus wept.” If God can cry at the death of a friend, can’t we too? So we expect tears now, but, as with few others whom this institution has had the privilege to know, can we not also have the confidence that Helen DeVos has attained the true happiness, the eternal peace, which her life here and works here most earnestly sought?

Matthew 25 tells the Parable of the Talents. Let’s not kid ourselves: Helen DeVos was given many. Many! But what she was given, this good and faithful servant returned, many times over. And so, the Master has a promise to uphold. His end of the bargain is truly special. Eternally special. We offer the DeVos family, many of them our friends, our condolences, but we are cheerful for Helen’s fate, and grateful for the beautiful and inspiring life she led.

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