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On a Friday in June 2000, Dr. Ira Richer retired from a career in computer networking, which spanned four decades. By the following Monday, he had enrolled as a student in cabinet and furniture making at North Bennett Street School in Boston’s North End.
“That was typical of him; he never wasted time,’’ said his wife, Kari-Lise.
Dr. Richer, a retired electrical engineer, died June 14 at his home in Boston’s North End of neuroendocrine cancer. He was 70.
Despite a distinguished résumé of accomplishments, Dr. Richer’s woodworking education was one of his proudest achievements, his wife said.
“People said he was such a relief to work with because there was no ego,’’ she said. “He just appreciated hard work, no matter who you were or where you were. Frankly, I think that’s hard to find today.’’
A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Dr. Richer graduated at age 17 in 1955 from Bronx High School of Science. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1959.
The summer after graduating, Dr. Richer drove across the country to begin work on a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He completed his master’s of science degree in 1960 and a doctorate in electrical engineering there in 1964.
In 1963, he attended an international student party, where he met Kari-Lise Nilssen, a native of Norway working as an au pair to a German family.
Upon graduation, Dr. Richer received a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Technical University of Denmark and traveled there with Nilssen. In January 1965, the couple married in Denmark, and a year later, their first child, Mark, was born in Norway.
“I think he was, as a family man, the same way he was in his professional life,’’ his wife said, “extremely reliable, kind, accepting, and understanding.’’
In 1966, the family left Denmark for California, where Dr. Richer returned to Caltech as a postdoctoral fellow.
The following year, they moved to Lexington, and Dr. Richer joined the professional staff at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, where he worked on national defense projects such as the development of a low-frequency method for communicating with deeply submerged submarines.
In 1976, Dr. Richer joined the Cambridge computer technology consulting firm Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, now known as BBN Technologies, where his work focused on design and analysis of complex data communication systems and networks for military, government, and commercial clients.
At BBN, he was part of a three-person team, along with John McQuillan and Eric Rosen, which in 1978 developed a new technique for routing data through a communication network - at that time, it was Arpanet, a precursor to the Internet - according to his son, Mark of Las Cruces, N.M.
While at BBN, Dr. Richer also spent two years working and living with his family in northern Italy as a consultant to Olivetti, Italy’s leading computer company on the design and implementation of a countrywide banking network in Denmark.
Dr. Richer also took advantage of his surroundings, hiking the Italian Alps and cultivating a great love for Italian food, his son said.
While in Italy, Dr. Richer also struck up a friendship with Alex McKenzie of Gloucester, a colleague from the Cambridge firm who also spent time in Italy consulting for Olivetti.
“Ira was a very smart guy, very soft spoken, but he had the ability to size up clients’ situations and see solutions, often unique solutions, to their problems,’’ McKenzie said.
In the late 1980s, Dr. Richer worked for MITRE Corp. in Bedford, supervising a small group working on advanced networks and applications. Then he joined the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, at the Department of Defense, in 1988 as a program manager for high performance networking.
Dr. Richer joined the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Va., in the early 1990s. While at CNRI, he played a large role in preparing for the Y2K conversion and coordinated the MAGIC project, which gave computer systems the capability to use large volumes of stored data, even if the hardware storing the data needed to be moved in such events as natural disasters or military operations, his family said.
Dr. Richer was a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a professional association.
He was also was an avid traveler and hiker.
In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Richer leaves a daughter, Elise of Portland, Maine; two grandsons; and a granddaughter.