June 19, 2024

John & Janet Baab

When Ray Loeschner, Founder of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation, convinced John Baab to join the Board of Directors in 2012, he didn’t know where it would take him. Eleven years later, John has served as VP, as Board President, and currently on the Executive Committee, the Investment Committee, and is Chair of the Nominating Committee. So, to say the Baabs are invested in the Foundation would be an understatement.

“I’ve been active in the community on lots of Boards, but this is a special one,” John speaks fondly of the Foundation’s Board. “Ray’s idea to set up the Foundation was very forward thinking. That was tested during the Covid pandemic. The Foundation is responsible for 20% of the Meijer Gardens budget. And that was a real blessing to the Gardens when it had to be closed to the public."

John graduated from the University of Michigan with his BBA and MBA. In 1988, he and his wife, Janet, moved to Grand Rapids with their family. Janet says, “it is family that keeps us coming back again and again to share in the beauty of the Gardens.”

Janet, after starting a career in teaching and then tending to her close-knit family, speaks highly of the Gardens, a place they’ve invested time in. “This is a happy place for both children and adults. People truly draw great pleasure from this place.”

“And the best part is, it’s not static.” John notes. “Everything is changing all the time. It’s not a one-and-done place. And that’s why we’ve invested time and financial contributions in the Foundation.”

The Baabs are an example of the many ways to give to the Foundation. After making an initial gift in 2012, they made a pledge to add to their cumulative giving that resulted in acceptance into the Perennial Society, allowing them to leave a legacy that will grow forever, just like the Gardens itself.

John speaks on why they have chosen to give over the years, “When people give, they take ownership. They want to take care of this special place and nurture it. It’s a gift you can pass onto your children and grandchildren.”

“No one fully imagined what could be here today,” John says. “There is just so much imagination from the many future-minded community leaders. I think Fred Meijer would be pleased to see the Gardens & Sculpture Park today.”

Outside of regular Foundation events and board meetings, you can often catch John and Janet playing alongside their grandkids in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, taking in a concert at the Amphitheatre, or walking the grounds especially on a beautiful sunny day.