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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - One Michigan legend honored the memory of another yesterday, as Fred Meijer, chairman emeritus Meijer, Inc. here, spoke publicly of President Gerald R. Ford, who died at 93 on the day after Christmas, as "one of the finest men we ever knew."
To the world Ford was the U.S. president who pardoned Richard M. Nixon and held the country together at a time of acute strife, but to Meijer and his wife, Lena, the late president was a friend as well as a statesman.
Recalled Meijer: "As two local boys from west Michigan, our paths crossed frequently." Afterwards, as a congressman, Ford "was always quick to consider and respond to the important issues facing Michigan businesses," the grocer said.
Later in life, the two worked together on the development of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, and the Presidential Library in Ann Arbor. Meijer still serves as an honorary trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.
Fred said he and his wife Lena last spent time with the Fords in 2005. "While with him and reminiscing about the past, we once again felt admiration for a man who embodied humility and embraced humanity," noted Meijer. "His gift to us all was his strong leadership, but his modesty and compassion will truly define him forever."