Raymond Plank, the founder and former chairman of Apache Corp., passed away on Nov. 9 while at his beloved ranch, Ucross, outside Sheridan, Wyo. He was 96.

An avid reader to the end, growth and learning were two words that cropped up again and again when we last talked with Plank in 2012 upon publication of his memoir, “A Small Difference.” He had a remarkable career that spanned more than 50 years.

“For the many of us at Apache who knew him, and the many more whose lives he touched, we remember Raymond as a visionary leader and a strong, passionate and caring man. His leadership, courage, generosity and integrity are central to the core values he instilled at Apache, and they continue to guide us today. We send our deepest condolences to the Plank family,” said Apache CEO and President John J. Christmann IV in a statement.

Born in 1922 and raised in Minneapolis, Plank was a bomber pilot in the Pacifi c during World War II before returning to the U.S. Three of the B-24s he piloted barely made it back and never fl ew again, relegated to being a source of parts.

Exiting Yale in 1946 with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in international relations, he formed a small bookkeeping, tax and accounting fi rm in Minneapolis. It was transformed when he started managing oil and gas investment partnerships at the request of some clients. He and two friends, Truman Anderson and Chuck Arnao, formed Apache Corp. in 1954 with $250,000. Today its market cap is $13.6 billion.

In 1956 Apache offered its fi rst oil and gas investment program and was an industry leader in that until it dropped annual drilling program sales in 1986. Apache went public in May 1969.

Plank built the company beyond his wildest dreams, with a series of savvy acquisitions and drilling throughout the U.S. The company made a splash with some of the biggest acquisitions from the majors in the 1990s, obtaining mega-independent status and gaining superior positions in Australia, Canada and Egypt. Its market cap reached $50 billion by 2008, his last full year as chairman. He retired in January 2009.

Plank received much recognition throughout the years and served on numerous civic, charitable and industry boards. He was honored as CEO of the Year three times by the Wall Street Transcript.

He was called irascible, frank and a force of nature. He was always interesting. But service to others was a cornerstone of his life, following the advice he received from his father at age 10, to make “a very small difference on behalf of others.”

His dreams for growth, corporate and personal, always led to hands-on philanthropy. Among the many charitable causes he created, Apache built 203 one-room schools to educate young girls throughout Egypt, and Apache also endowed the Fund for Teachers, which has supported more than 5,000 U.S. teachers with stipends and sabbaticals.

“It’s not about what we get; it’s about how we get it and how we use it,” he wrote. “It isn’t what we inherit or pursue; it’s about whether and how we elect to grow. Lifetime learning is so important. If I weren’t learning I wouldn’t be around, because it’s my mind which allows me to still get around,” he told Oil and Gas Investor in 2012.