Cover photo for James "Jim" Neil McLean's Obituary
James "Jim" Neil McLean Profile Photo
1945 James "Jim" 2022

James "Jim" Neil McLean

November 12, 1945 — January 15, 2022

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandella

James (“Jim”) Neil McLean, 76, peacefully passed away on January 15 at his home on Lake Norman in North Carolina. 

Jim was born in Caseville, Michigan on November 12, 1945.  After graduating from Ludington (Michigan) High School, Jim went on to both Ferris State and Michigan State to receive undergraduate and advanced degrees. He began his career as a teacher in the rural Northern Michigan community of Elbridge, which marked the beginning of his lifelong commitment to public education.  Jim progressed through a number of advancing educational leadership positions that resulted in the family relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan and Jim becoming the Superintendent of Forest Hills Public Schools. Jim’s legacy includes leading, along with his team, the successful effort to finance and build Forest Hills Central High School in 1986.Jim was then recruited into private industry where he served in several leadership roles with Meijer, Inc.  Jim retired as CEO of Meijer in 2002.  After his retirement from Meijer, Jim spent several more years in public education with Kent Intermediate School District.  Jim deeply believed that every child deserves to have an education that will produce his or her best self.  He worked tirelessly to the end of his life to make this happen, including volunteer roles with Gateway to Success and the Promise Board of Mason County.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents, William and Ruth.  He is survived by his devoted wife Jane, whom he met in Ludington in 1968 and with whom he enjoyed 52 wonderful years of marriage. He is also survived by his three sons, Scott (Kacie), Marc, and Ben (Rachel).  Jim is also survived by his three sisters, JoAnn, Janet (Steave), and Janice, along with brothers-in-law Tom, Phil (Sherry), Dave (Tim), and Bill (Deb) and sister-in-law Susie (Roger).  Jim was also the very proud and beloved grandfather to Jake, Samantha, Sydney, Charlotte, Morgan, Meghan, Hudson, Jack, Emma, and Liam. 

Jim will be remembered by his family as the consummate builder.  From the first family home that he and Jane built together in Ludington, to the cabin at K’s Edgewater Resort, homes in Ada, the family retreat on Hamlin Lake and then to their home on Lake Norman, Jim was always building places where his family could gather, create memories with one another, and spend time forging the lifelong connections with family and friends that he cherished so much.

Jim leaves a legacy where he will be remembered for always bringing a smile, sharing his warm humor, inspiring with boundless optimism, and leaving everyone feeling like their lives were better for having known him. He was a servant leader to the many men and women with whom he worked throughout his career, finding his own fulfillment by always seeking to elevate those around him.  He will be deeply missed.

Jim will be memorialized with a Funeral Mass at St. Simon’s Catholic Church,  702 E. Bryant Road, Ludington, MI on Monday, June 13th at 11 AM.  He also will have a Celebration of Life at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, 600 Forest Hills Avenue SE , Grand Rapids, MI on Wednesday, June 15th  from 4:30-7 pm.  A short service will be at 6pm.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to:    

Mason College Access Fund, Community Foundation of Mason County,

Trade It Forward Scholarship Fund, GRCC Foundation,



To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James "Jim" Neil McLean, please visit our flower store.


Visits: 195

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree