Members of the Michigan produce community remember Tom Heeren as a generous man with a great sense of humor.
Heeren, 52, co-owner of Grand Rapids-based wholesaler Heeren Bros Inc.; his wife Becky, who also had worked at the company; daughter Jennifer Heeren; and granddaughter Kamrie Heeren-Dantzler were four of seven victims of a mass murder July 7 in Grand Rapids.
John Wiltjer, president of Grand Rapids-based Top Distributing Co. Inc., was Heeren’s second cousin. Heeren Bros. was a customer of Top’s, and the two companies often worked together when they shared customers, Wiltjer said.
In the days since Heeren’s passing, Wiltjer has received many positive comments about his cousin.
“He was a great guy to work with, and he’ll be missed on the market here,” he said. “He’d give you the shirt off his back if he needed to.”
Dan Mol, president of Grand Rapids-based Mol Produce Co., said that in business, golf and other social activities, Heeren, who was widely known by his nickname Frank, was notable for his “intense” sense of humor.
“He was just a fun guy to be with,” he said. “He always made a bad situation tolerable, and made doing business more enjoyable.”
Jim Lupa, general manager of Jack’s Fruit & Meat Market, a five-store Michigan retailer, did business with Heeren for decades.
Lupa described Heeren as one of the nicest guys he’s ever met.
“He was a class act — he thanked you, he was very appreciative for the business,” Lupa said. “I don’t know anybody who would say anything bad about him.”
In a Heeren Bros. news release, the company’s chief executive officer, Hal Roy, said Heeren was “incredibly dedicated to our business and to his family.”
On July 13, Roy said Heeren Bros. would have further comment on Heeren’s life and role at the company the week of July 18.
Services for the four family members are scheduled for July 15 in Grand Rapids.