ADA, Mich. -- Hundreds of Amway employees, longtime distributors, and family members paid their respects to Rich DeVos at the company's world headquarters on Monday morning. The DeVos died at 92 Thursday from complications of an infection, according to a family spokesperson.
It was a grand farewell, as several aircraft flew over Ada. The fleet included a World War II bomber, which is said to have been a favorite of DeVos, who was a veteran. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II.
"He was truly an extraordinary man," said current Amway chairman Steve Van Andel, who spoke to a crowd of distributors and employees, some of whom have worked at Amway for more than 33 years.
"We've known Rich for over 50 years, and he introduced us to what changed our lives," said Chuck Strehli, an Amway distributor. "We've literally been given the world."
"We would not have missed a way to honor Rich and just to be here," said Strehli's wife, Jean, "so the family would know how much we loved him and love them, and the impact they've had on not just our lives but just around the world. It's just unbelievable."
The Amway headquarters typically features flags from several countries, but this week the American flag flies at half staff on each pole.
Yuichi Takagi remembered how he met DeVos 34 years ago at Amway Japan and took notice of his concern for people.
"He just talked to me as a friend," Takagi recalled.
He added, "I respect his leadership. We learned a lot from him."
Employees remember DeVos as a leader known for giving encouragement.
"He would sometimes put those words of encouragement in writing," said Amway's chief human resource officer Kelly Savage. "We would call 'em 'love notes from Rich,' because he'd sign them 'Love ya, Rich'."
Company vice chairman Bill Payne, who has worked at Amway for 39 years, said those kind words and DeVos' smile are what he'll miss the most.
"While it's a sad day, it's a joyous day," Payne said, "because I know from many experiences and his faith that he's home with Helen and Jay and Betty, and they're all looking down, hoping that we will carry on the legacy they so have beautifully built for us here."
Visitation for DeVos is set for September 12 at the Amway Grand in downtown Grand Rapids. His private funeral is set for September 13, but the public will be able to watch a live stream from DeVos Place.