Nature 28

Harvey E. Lemmen

November 6, 1922 ~ July 25, 2019 (age 96)


Harvey Lemmen, the first non-family president of Meijer Inc. and a devoted volunteer for the American Red Cross, died July 25 at a care facility in Jenison. He was 96. An Ionia native and valedictorian of his high school class, Lemmen was an accounting graduate of the University of Michigan, where he also earned his MBA. He joined Meijer in 1949 as office manager and accountant when the fledgling supermarket chain was headquartered in an old potato warehouse in Greenville. A scholarly introvert, he quickly won the respect of his entrepreneurial colleagues, Fred and Hendrik Meijer. Over the next 37 years assumed ever greater responsibilities as the company grew from a handful of supermarkets to a major Midwestern supercenter group. After working in finance, operations and merchandising, he became president of Meijer in 1976, succeeding Fred Meijer. In 1980 he was named deputy chairman of the board of directors, succeeded by Earl Holton. Although he continued to serve on the Meijer board, Lemmen retired in 1986 at the age of 63. Almost immediately he began a second career, of committed volunteerism. For the next two decades, using his own car to transport patients to medical centers around Michigan, he logged more than 500.000 miles driving for the Kent County Red Cross. Lemmen's name graces the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Center in downtown Grand Rapids. He was generous with support for several civic institutions, from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to the University of Michigan, Planned Parenthood and the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Of particular note was his donation to the libraries of Grand Valley State University of more than 30,000 books and other items. Much of the collection related to his lifelong hero, Abraham Lincoln. He also built a unique collection of works of fiction set in or relating to the state of Michigan. The volumes are housed in the Harvey E. Lemmen Library on Grand Valley's Allendale campus. A close friend of the Meijer family, Lemmen was a bachelor with no close survivors. He will be interred at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

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