FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – South Florida is mourning the loss of auto dealership magnate and philanthropist Rick Case who passed away after a short battle with an aggressive form of cancer.

Case was 77 years old.

“Rick had the most amazing mind for problem-solving. He set his goals so high, most could not dream that big. His work ethic and passion to succeed was very intense and always had me chasing to keep up. He always treated me as his equal and allowed me to share in his spotlight of success. Let there be no doubt, Rick created, built, and operated his company with a single passion to be the biggest and best. He spent hours every day educating himself on the latest information about the auto industry and I learned from him every day,” his wife Rita said in a statement.

“I will miss our morning meetings and sharing our “to-do list”. He told me he had no doubt I could continue our business success without him. I trust his confidence in me and will make him proud as will our children. He was a wonderful husband and a loving father. I will miss him so much; he was truly one of a kind and always so positive. I’m so proud of him and thankful to have shared 40 years with such a special, caring, and supportive husband,” she concluded.

In addition to selling cars, Case also had a passion for giving back to the community.

In 1981 the idea was born for the “Rick Case Bikes for Kids” program. He would ask the community to drop off their old bicycles to any of his dealerships. His stores would fix them and deliver them to organizations that supported children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to have a bike in time for the holidays. This year is the 39th year of this program, having given over 100,000 bikes to date.

Rick and Rita Case have also been generous to many educational organizations and charities, including Nova Southeastern University, Habitat for Humanity, American Heart Association, American Cancer Association, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, where they have been board members since 1986. Over the years, they have raised more than $50 million for the clubs.

“He will be incredibly missed, said Matt Organ with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward. “He had an incredible ability to make everyone feel important. He had an incredible ability to make everyone feel that they were his best friend.”

“He’s given us the resources, Rick has been hands. It is very, very rare that you meet an individual, like a Rick Case and a Rita Case, who not only give of their finances, they write the checks, but they are involved. They are on committees, they are chairing committees, they are giving of their time, they are volunteering at the clubs, they are volunteering for whatever is needed,” he added.

In 2011, Rick and Rita Case were honored as National Medallion Award Winners by the Boys and Girls Club of America, the highest honor given by the organization to any individual.

“His legacy is changing lives. His legacy is he has changed lives. His legacy is that he has made a difference,” said Organ.

In 2019, they were inducted into Nova Southeastern University and Huizenga Business College’s Business Hall of Fame.

Case, the founder and CEO of The Rick Case Automotive Group, got his start in selling cars at a young age.

At 14 he purchased a used car, fixed it up, and put a “For Sale” sign on it in his parent’s driveway in Akron Ohio. It sold within days and at that moment his passion for car sales began. He then started a used car reconditioning business before he was old enough to drive. At age 19, Rick operated his first used car lot all by himself, Moxie Motors in Akron. He sold cars during the day and got cars ready at night.

In 1972, he started selling Honda’s in Akron, Ohio and became the largest volume dealer in the nation his first month in business. To this day he still holds the world record for selling the most Honda cars in one month; 1,222. Rick also holds the volume record for Acura, Fiat, and Honda Motorcycles.

In 2006, Case was presented with the Time Magazine Dealer of the Year Award.

Rick met Rita at a Honda convention in 1977. Rita ran her parents’ Honda car and motorcycle dealership in Santa Rosa, California. It was love at first sight for Rick. They married in 1980, sharing the same passion for the industry.

Case and his wife have opened 16 dealerships in Florida, Georgia, and Ohio.

The plan is to continue running Rick Case Motor, along with their two children.

A private celebration of his life will be held at a later date.