Healthcare advertising leader Alan Gross has died at age 80 after more than 40 years battling cancer.

Gross founded healthcare ad agency Gross Townsend Frank Hoffman with his wife Jane Townsend and two other partners. The firm, which started as Alan Gross Communications in 1978, was later sold to Grey Advertising in 1986 after years of success, when it became Grey Healthcare Group. Gross led the agency from 1978 until his retirement in 1993.

After his retirement, Gross spent many years doing volunteer work on the Dutch island of Bonaire in the Caribbean, his adopted home. There he worked with the Red Cross, environmental groups and created a youth development program for teens. For his service to the community, he was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in 2005.

In 2011, Gross was inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. The organization recognized him for pioneering advertising concepts like integrated multi-channel marketing and PR and building a dedicated CRM group within his agency.

“But it’s not what he did, it’s who he was that’s important,” his wife wrote in his obituary. “He should be remembered for his kindness and goodness, two traits not always praised in today’s world. Beyond his personal achievements he will be remembered by the many lives he touched and made better.”

He “danced” with cancer for more than 40 years, his wife wrote. In his mid-30s, Gross was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Undeterred, he founded his advertising agency the next year. Later in life, he participated in a clinical trial for an experimental CAR-T therapy for lymphoma.

Gross is survived by his wife of 45 years; two sons, Harold and Michael; his sister, Tina Gross Rosenthal; and his granddaughter. His family asks that donations be made in his name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in lieu of flowers.