A Meijer Story… And A Butterfly Photo

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A Meijer Story and a Butterfly Photo

Last Spring I paid for a “class” at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens Butterfly Conservatory – Part of the class allowed a 2 hour time frame with 12 other paid participants to enter the gardens and take as many pics as I wanted of the butterflies along with the coaching of a local professional photographer. 

Small Postman Butterfly Photo

It pays to be NICE!

We had the whole place to ourselves and that is a highly coveted thing…. The Butterflies Are Blooming exhibit is a BIG draw in our little corner of the world and is usually shoulder to shoulder with crowds and a long wait time to even get in.  

For more information on the Frederick Meijer Gardens, you can check out their website HERE.  

As we reached the end of our timeframe, a small family entered the gardens with a very, very old grandmother in a wheelchair. One of the participants curtly told them that this was a PRIVATE class and that they shouldn’t be in there. They answered something to her, but I didn’t hear the response.

What a fun memory... For both of us!

Scroll forward about 1/2 hour – we 12 are taking pics and the small family is gathered around grandma. Lo and behold she has a little butterfly on her finger. Super cool! The family is all snapping shots with their cell phones and exclaiming over the butterfly. I approached and said, “All these professional photographers here and you with your cell phones for this moment, would you like me to take a photo with my fancy camera and e-mail a copy to one of you? I mean – seriously – the grandma looked at least 90 years old. What a fun memory this would be to have a beautiful picture of her in such a beautiful setting with a butterfly perched right on her finger. They all happily agreed and let me shoot a few shots.  One of the men handed over a hand-written e-mail address on a scrap of paper, which I tucked into my pocket. I thanked them and grandma, complimented her on her lovely blouse and went about packing up and heading home.

butterfly on placard picture

This is where it gets good!

A short while later I arrived home, sat down and was telling my husband about my morning, including the sweet grandma and her family.  I pulled the paper from my pocket and was shocked to see the email address indicated that this family was a part of the Meijer family, you know, of the “Meijer” Gardens & Sculpture Park. You’ve stayed with me this long – this is where it gets good. I quickly looked up a photo of Fred & Lena Meijer (more about them in a minute), and HOLY COW!  Who do you think I just took a picture of, but Lena Meijer herself. 97 years old. If you are not from this part of the country, this may not mean much to you, but here’s a little info.

They are millionaires!!!

Fred and Lena Meijer are millionaires, or dare I suggest, billionaires, who have made every honest dime from their grocery chain. They have used a portion of that money to open the Meijer Gardens, a very well-known cultural garden and sculpture park. In the Upper Midwest, Meijer IS your neighborhood grocery (and everything else) chain. Fred and Lena Meijer are also responsible for the funding of the Meijer Heart Health Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where people from all over the country come for heart services (both my dad and my dad-in-law would not be with us today if not for the Meijer Heart Center). It’s one of the top heart hospitals in the world. Fred & Lena are very, very wealthy, yet also wonderful, giving people. They have had books written about them and their life story and their success in business and their philanthropic efforts.

If you would like to read more about the net worth of Hank Meijer and his brother, Doug (sons of Lena and Fred), click HERE.  

If you would like to read more about Fred and Lena Meijer, click HERE.  

Here I am, little ole me...

And here is little Veronica, armed with her little Canon 70D, offering a picture with her “fancy” camera. Folks – these people could BUY me and all of my friends the fanciest of fancy cameras without a second thought… I wasn’t sure if I should have been embarrassed or humbled or horrified or what.  I think I was a little bit of all of those things.

The next day, after I edited up my best shot of the lovely Mrs. Meijer, I sent it on to the e-mail address on the slip of paper with this note:

Mrs. Meijer with butterfly photo

From: Veronica Bareman [veronicajune2@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:12 PM
To: Meijer, Hendrik
Subject: Pictures of Mrs. Meijer

Hello Mr. Meijer!

What a pleasure it was to take a picture of the lovely Mrs. Meijer today at the Butterfly Gardens.  I had no idea who you were until I came home and registered in my mind the Meijer name on your e-mail address.  It goes without saying that I feel very honored that you allowed me to crash your party and snap some photos for you!  The photos are attached.  I hope you enjoy them.  Please share them with whomever you like.  Thank you again for your kindness!

The gardens are beautiful, and my family has especially enjoyed the butterfly exhibit for many years.  Today was a special treat to be able to photograph the butterflies freely with no crowd.  I will be back next week with my 8-year-old son, who wouldn’t dream of missing the highlight of our spring break.  He’s already studying the map for what we’ll see first.  What a fantastic legacy your family has made in our West Michigan community.  Thank you!

Veronica Bareman

Holland, MI

His Gracious Response...

The kind gentleman who scratched his e-mail address on a scrap of paper was none other than Henrick Meijer, one of Fred and Lena’s sons.  Here is his response:

Dear Veronica,

Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful work.  I’m sure my mom will cherish the photos.  We hope we didn’t disrupt the class too much!

I hope your son enjoys all the treats of spring as much as our kids do!


Hank Meijer

Folks, it pays to be humble and kind.  In the end, I had a little brush with fame, which was just plain fun, and based on the kindness with which Mr. Meijer responded, I think that they appreciated the kindness of an ordinary stranger.  But above all, I will cherish the fact that I wasn’t the one who told them they weren’t welcome in MY $60 class! HA!

Want to take your own pictures of a beautiful butterfly?  This kit is awesome and so much fun!

A Meijer Story Pin Photo

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