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Richard Lee, last Medford city manager, at 58

Posted by Matt Byrne  January 5, 2011 10:04 AM

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Richard Lee, the last manager of the City of Medford and longtime director of Budget, Finance and Personnel, died at Lawrence Memorial Hospital Dec. 28 after a two-year fight against pancreatic cancer. He was 58.

"He was the end of an era in Medford government," said Mayor Michael McGlynn, a friend and colleague who kept Mr. Lee in 1987 when the form of government changed. "He was just a tremendous administrator."

Mr. Lee, a father of three and devoted husband, was remembered by friends as a man of deep faith whose life work was dedicated to serving the community.

"He was so knowledgable about finance, number one, but he was also very compassionate," said McGlynn, reached by phone yesterday. "He was a man of deep faith, and a great family man with great moral values. He was an example to other employees."

After Mr. Lee graduated from Christopher Columbus High School, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in political science from Merrimack College.

Mr. Lee oversaw an employment program for the city before he was selected as assistant city manager in 1982.

In 1985, Mr. Lee succeeded the late John Ghiloni as manager, and served in that role for three years until the city's form of government changed in 1987.

Some of Mr. Lee's best friends worked alongside him for decades in the city, they said.

Mr. Lee, McGlynn, and City Solicitor Mark Rumley have been friends since childhood, they said, and triple-dated to the high school prom in 1971.

McGlynn said that Lee's dedication to his job was pervasive, and that he had last seen him two days before Christmas when he came to work.

"I asked him, 'Richie, what are you doing here?' " McGlynn recounted. "He said, 'I have a lot of things to do in the office.' "

A few days later he was rushed to the hospital afte collapsing at home, McGlynn and Rumley said.

Remembered by his daughter Meghan as an unshakeable role model, Mr. Lee was a dedicated father who "You just strive to be."

"He taught us everything, from our faith to our morals," Meghan said, "With the church, with family, city hall, they’re all so important to him. He was just such a hard worker on all ends."

As a lector for Saint Francis of Assisi Church, the same parish he grew up in, Mr. Lee remained active in activities, McGlynn said.

Rumley, a Deacon at Saint Francis who gave the homiliy at the funeral Mass yesterday, said he grew up neighbors with Mr. Lee, and that the first photograph he has of the two was at his friend's third birthday party. The two had been best friends ever since.

"We’ve seen each other each day for the last 23 years. A piece of me got buried today," Rumley said, speaking after yesterday's service via phone.

A longtime fisherman, Rumley said every year after budget season Mr. Lee would book a trip out of Boston to go deep-sea fishing. In the winter the two would trek to New Hampshire for ice fishing, he said.

"People talk about spouses and children, and they’re important," Rumley said. "But it’s the best friend, the person who will be with you when the rest of the world might not be."

In addition to his daughter Meghan, Lee is survived by his wife, Cheryle (Doucett) Lee, and sons Michael and Andrew, and seven brothers and sisters.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Mr. Lee's honor to the Boston Higashi School for Autism.

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