Lena Meijer, a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, spouse and partner of the late retailing entrepreneur Fred Meijer, died January 15, 2022 at the age of 102. Lena was born May 14, 1919 on the family farm near Lakeview, Michigan. She was the daughter of German immigrants George Rader and Mary Lutterloh Rader.
Lena moved to Greenville, Michigan in 1940, where she was hired by Hendrik Meijer as a cashier in the original Meijer supermarket. It was there that she met Fred Meijer, the grocer’s son. They were married in 1946. The couple moved to Grand Rapids in 1951 and Lena continued to work in the business until the birth in 1952 of the first of three sons.
Lena was very active in the Grand Rapids Public Schools, volunteering frequently as a member of the Aberdeen School PTA, as well as serving in other civic roles and volunteering at school functions from paper drives to cake walks. She was also an enthusiastic partner of her husband as the Meijer retail business grew, attending store openings and team member awards dinners, taking Sunday drives to visit stores and making lifelong friends at food industry conferences. Yet she also presided over a bustling household, cooking dinner for the family most every evening.
From the couple’s first trip to Europe—and her first airplane ride—in 1950 to worldwide travel in their later years, Lena found herself embarked on adventures she could not have imagined as a child attending a one-room schoolhouse in central Michigan. She cherished memories of camel rides and hot-air balloon flights, golf tournaments and cycling trips.
Even more, she cherished the company of her family, of her seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, as well as nieces and nephews and cousins.
In the natural world, she developed a special fondness for penguins, amassing a collection of penguin-related items in all shapes and sizes.
Her love of gardens, including her own rose garden at their longtime home on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, helped inspire her and her husband’s commitment to create the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. For many years she decorated the German Christmas tree as a volunteer at the Gardens. There, as at Meijer, her affection for the dedicated volunteers and coworkers was always evident. She and Fred delighted in welcoming visitors to the Gardens, including and especially children to her namesake Children’s Garden.
She always enjoyed the friendship of her neighbors, from the house on Meadowfield Drive NE where they raised their sons, to the apartment at Cook Valley Estates, where they moved in 2004.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Fred, in 2011. She is survived by sons Hank (Liesel), Doug and Mark (Mary Beth), grandchildren Haley, Peter (Gabriella), Hanna (Alex), Cali, Hardy, Kendall and Mary Grace, and great-grandchildren Dresden, Lena, Olivia and Brooklyn.
A private family ceremony is planned. Family members wish to thank all those who helped with Lena’s care in the home, with her transportation and with other assistance.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Lena’s name may be made to the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at the Frederik Meijer Gardens.