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Former Meijer President Holton Dies At Age 90

photo of former Meijer president Earl Holton
Earl Holton

Meijer has announced the death of its former long-time president Earl Holton, 90, on May 10.

Mr. Holton began working for Meijer soon after graduating high school in 1952 as a store clerk, served as president from 1980-1999, and remained a trusted advisor through this year.

“The entire Meijer family is saddened by the loss of Earl, who played a key role in the growth and development of Meijer and was a trusted confidant of my father during a pivotal period in our company’s history,” said Executive Chairman Hank Meijer. “The impact Earl made on Meijer was only exceeded by the impact he made on this community, which he loved dearly and supported through numerous philanthropic initiatives. Our thoughts and prayers are with Earl’s family during this difficult time.”

He started his career at Meijer as a store clerk in Cedar Springs, Michigan, before becoming a store and then district manager. In 1961, he became the first Thrifty Acres operations manager and was then named VP of operations in 1966. Holton continued earning additional responsibility as a senior and then EVP before being named president in June 1980. He succeeded Harvey Lemmen, the first non-family president of Meijer.

Mr. Holton retired as Meijer president in 1999, and as vice chairman of the company’s corporate board in 2004.

“Without Earl’s leadership, Meijer would not be the company it is today,” said Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes. “His impact on our business can still be seen, and his impact on our culture will last even longer. He was never satisfied with just meeting customers’ needs, he always wanted to exceed them. Earl’s counsel has been truly invaluable to me, but I will miss our friendship the most.”

He was born Jan. 23, 1934, in Manton, Michigan. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 1951, and in December of 1952 he began working at the local Meijer Supermarket. At the time, it was one of only six in the company.

While stocking shelves, he met Hendrik Meijer and his son, Frederik, and a lifelong, close friendship soon formed between Mr. Holton and Fred Meijer. Mr. Holton always credited Fred Meijer as his mentor in both business and life.

He met his future wife during his senior year in high school, and he and Donnalee were married in August of 1952. In August 2023 they celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

Mr. Holton is survived by his wife, Donnalee Holton; sons, Michael (JoAnne) Holton and Brian (Jackie) Holton; daughters, Elizabeth (John) Dolce and Kimberly Holton; grandchildren, Nick (TuAnh) Holton, Katy Jo Holton, Sara (Mike) Irwin, Russell Holton, Kyle (Kayla) Dolce, Alexandra Dolce, Austen Weaver and Lauren Weaver; and great-granddaughters, Addison and Mackenzie Irwin. Also surviving are a stepgrandson, Jason Maki, and a stepgreat-granddaughter, Alaina Maki, and many nieces and nephews. A grandson, Brandon Weaver, preceded him in death.

Visitation is scheduled from 4-8 p.m. on May 16 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Holton desired donations be made in his memory to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation or to the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

Read more independent grocer news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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