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West Michigan reacts to passing of Peter Secchia

Posted at 2:48 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 14:50:07-04

WEST MICHIGAN — Leaders and organizations across West Michigan are reacting this afternoon to the passing of West Michigan icon Peter F. Secchia.

And with his large influence on business, politics and philanthropy, leaders from across the state and country are also responding to the news.

SEE MORE: Former U.S. ambassador, GR philanthropist Peter Secchia dies at 83

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss:

"Today is a sad day for our community with the passing of Ambassador Peter Secchia. There was no one who worked harder than Peter. If he gave you his word, you knew you could count on it. While we worked together on so many things throughout my time in office, I am especially grateful for his love of parks, trees and, of course, the City of Grand Rapids. Planting trees with Peter and Joan is a memory I will always cherish. There is a proverb that states a society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in. This rings true literally for Peter, but also is fitting if you look at the change he made and lives he touched across our community. He made a difference. Grand Rapids is better, stronger and has a brighter future due to his lasting legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as we all mourn the loss of a true champion and friend of Grand Rapids."

DeVos family statement:

"Ambassador Secchia left a lasting impact on our nation, community and family and he will be deeply missed. He was a committed public servant throughout his life, including his time as a beloved Ambassador to Italy. In his adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, he led countless efforts to improve and grow our community by supporting local investment, education, arts and parks. But beyond his public acts, and his strong leadership, our family is most thankful for his warm and loving heart, and his and Joan’s deep and enduring friendship with our parents and grandparents, Rich and Helen DeVos. He always found a way to share a joke or local insights to keep them smiling, which we all especially appreciated when Rich was waiting for his heart transplant in London. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joan and the Secchia family during this time."

Statement from the Ford Family and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation:

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our great friend, Peter Secchia, and our hearts and prayers go out to Joan and their four children — Stephanie, Sandy, Charlie, and Mark. What a remarkable legacy Peter leaves behind. Whether he’s remembered as an entrepreneur rebuilding Grand Rapids, or as a philanthropist making life better for the people of Michigan, or as a counselor having the President’s ear, or as an ambassador bridging connections to Italy, Peter made things happen. He was bigger than life. Everything he did, he did with gusto. Just look at how he was devoted to his family, generous to his friends, fierce in his beliefs, and unwavering in his support for the causes he held dear. Peter and our dad first met back in 1964, during one of our dad’s congressional campaigns, and it seems he’s been part of our family ever since. Dad and Mom treasured his playful sense of humor, good counsel, and abiding friendship; also the good-natured rivalry between a Spartan and a Wolverine. Our family will miss Peter. We will remember his generous spirit and be inspired by his determination to make everything he touched better than he found it. Thank you, Peter, for letting us share in your wonderful life and journey. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him."

GRCC President Bill Pink said:

“Peter Secchia understood the importance of supporting his community, and how a community college education can transform a person’s life – and, in turn, make that community stronger,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “With his support, our culinary students have become among the best in the field, working around the globe and right here in West Michigan.”

Birgit Klohs, president and CEO, The Right Place:

"Grand Rapids has lost an icon in the passing of Peter Secchia. More than a business leader, community leader and philanthropist, Peter was a giant in our community. My heartfelt condolences go to Joan and the Secchia family. Peter’s love for this city and its economic success was second only to his love of Michigan State University, for which the community will remain indebted to him for his leadership in bringing MSU’s College of Human Medicine to the Medical Mile. There are countless new opportunities our region has experienced in the health sciences due to his efforts in strengthening MSU’s relationship with Grand Rapids. His list of accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors will leave a lasting mark on our region. I am grateful to have worked alongside Peter on several projects, and will remain grateful for the opportunity to have known him."

Most Reverend David Walkowiak, bishop, Diocese of Grand Rapids:

"With the death of Peter Secchia, the people of Grand Rapids lose an individual whose generosity and commitment to the community will have a lasting impact. An astute business leader, Mr. Secchia served our country as Ambassador to Italy and was fully engaged in the revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids. The Diocese of Grand Rapids has been blessed through the philanthropic giving of Mr. and Mrs. Secchia. In 2012, as part of his family foundation’s Grand Rapids Community Legends project, a sculpture of Bishop Baraga, a missionary priest who brought Catholicism to Grand Rapids, was erected east of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. Connected to the area where the sculpture stands is the Piazza Secchia, a beautiful gathering space outside the cathedral made possible through a generous gift from his wife, Joan. We offer our prayers and condolences to the Secchia family on the loss of their beloved husband, father and grandfather. May Mr. Secchia now rest in eternal peace."

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox:

For decades Ambassador Peter Secchia has been a powerful supporter of the Michigan Republican Party, Republican candidates and our causes. It is so appropriate that his name is on our building because he epitomizes the kind of strength and fight that everyone in our Party should have for the causes they believe in. His generosity and philanthropy extend beyond politics which is clear when you look around at all of the wonderful work he did for organizations and efforts across the State and his enthusiasm for those efforts was unmatched. On behalf of Republicans across Michigan, I would like to send our thoughts and prayers to Ambassador Secchia’s family and friends during this time of loss.”

Kent GOP Chairman Joel Freeman:

"As a business and community leader, Republican and Spartan, Peter always inspired those around him to be their best, do their best, and expect the best. From Grand Rapids, to Washington, to Italy and beyond, Ambassador Secchia left a legacy of service that will impact generations to come. No matter how far his business and political successes took him, he always came back to Kent County, back to his community, which will forever be changed for the better."

Congressman Bill Huizenga:

"Peter Secchia loved his family, his country, and his community. From his time in the Marine Corps to being our nation’s Ambassador to Italy, Peter served our country with distinction. Here in West Michigan, his impact has been enormous. Peter turned a small business into a successful company, played a critical role in securing Michigan State’s Medical School in Grand Rapids, and led the effort to restore and renew the natural beauty of West Michigan through the creation of Millennium Park and the Kent County Parks Foundation. Through it all, Peter will be remembered not only for his giving but his ability to encourage and help others give back to our community. His philanthropic endeavors and those he inspired have made West Michigan a better place to live, work, and raise a family. I will miss his “smiley face” notes and memos as well as the occasional I’m not happy “frowny face.“ One thing is for sure, you always knew where you stood with Peter Secchia. Natalie and I join the countless number of people who hold Joan and the entire Secchia family in our prayers. May you have peace knowing Peter lived a life that made West Michigan an even greater place to call home."

Peter Meijer, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives:

"Deeply saddened to hear of Ambassador Peter Secchia’s passing. Peter was a tireless champion for West Michigan, and the driving force behind Grand Rapids’ redevelopment, especially the Van Andel Arena. My deepest condolences to Joan and the entire Secchia family for their loss."