The long-time president and board chairman of a charitable Coachella Valley foundation died Thursday at the age of 87 after battling mesothelioma.

Ronald M. Auen led the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation for more than 30 years starting in 1988.

“Not only will he be remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit and gumption, but also for the positive impacts he had on thousands of people during his life, especially during his tenure with the Foundation,” a foundation statement read.

The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation is a private foundation that predominately supports educational, healthcare and social services projects throughout Southern California and beyond. Since 1988, it has contributed more than $800 million to charities throughout Southern California and elsewhere in the United States.

Auen was born in Fisher, Illinois, in 1932 but began calling Southern California home at 7 years old, said Cara Van Dijk, a foundation spokeswoman.

“Ron came from humble beginnings,” the foundation said. “He believed in hard work. At an early age, he enlisted in the United States Army, considered himself a graduate of the `School of Hard Knocks’ and took every opportunity to learn various skills along the way.”

Prior to take taking over the foundation in 1988, Auen provided land-planning services and developed a variety of projects with and for Silver Crest Industry representatives, and was president and owner of Foremost Land Co., according to the foundation’s website. He served in the U.S. Army from 1948-52.

In 1991, Auen and his wife, Sherrie, founded The Auen Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing the overall quality of life of the elderly and raising awareness of the end-of-life stage. The foundation supports charitable programs and services aimed at meeting the social needs of mature adults and their families, according to the foundation.

No public memorial service is planned at this time.

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