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Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Kathryn A. Jones

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Richard Marvin DeVos

Richard Marvin DeVos was born on March 4, 1926, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also to descendants of Dutch immigrants. His parents, Ethel and Simon DeVos, also had been financially strapped, especially after Simon lost his job during the Great Depression. They couldn’t make the payments on their $6,000 home in Grand Rapids and were forced to rent it to tenants for the $25 monthly mortgage. The family moved into the attic of Rich’s grandparents’ house. Simon eked out a living sacking flour for a grocer and selling socks and men’s underwear in a store on Saturdays. “From that day his advice was clear and simple,” Rich recalled. “‘Own your own business, Rich,’ he would say. ‘It’s the only way to be free.’”11 Even though the family was poor, the DeVoses made sure their children grew up in a loving atmosphere. “We may have lacked for money at times, but we never lacked for love,” Rich said.12 His sister, Jan, recalled that her brother had a special talent—he was a great fudge maker and improviser. “He made lots of different kinds of fudge,” she said. “He figured out a way to pass the fudge on a string to the babysitter in the next house.”13 Rich also was adept at sports and found creative ways to play them around the family home. One winter he flooded a vacant lot to create a skating rink. “I’ve always been proud of my brother and his ingenuity,” Jan said.14

Rich’s parents also taught their son important lessons about money and work. Ethel gave Rich a painted cast-iron ...

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