Richard J. Bloomfield, 84, retired US ambassador
Before settling in Greater Boston in the early 1980s to lead the World Peace Foundation, Richard J. Bloomfield spent three decades in the US Foreign Service, with postings in Europe, Mexico, and South America.
“I served the country as a diplomat,’’ Mr. Bloomfield wrote in an unpublished memoir. “It was a career that had its share of professional frustrations, but it was also personally fulfilling, almost always challenging, and at times exciting. I loved it.’’
Mr. Bloomfield, a Latin America specialist who served as US ambassador to Ecuador and Portugal, died Nov. 22 in Belmont Manor Nursing Center in Belmont of complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
He was 84 and had lived in Cambridge.
President Ford nominated Mr. Bloomfield to be the US ambassador to Ecuador, where he served from 1976 until 1978. He served during Ecuador’s transition from rule by a military tribunal to a democracy.
In 1978, President Carter nominated him to be ambassador to Portugal, where he served until 1982. He was the longest-serving US ambassador to Portugal, arriving soon after the nonviolent overthrow of the autocratic Salazar regime during what was known as the Carnation Revolution.
Years earlier, between postings, Mr. Bloomfield studied at Harvard University, graduating in 1960 with a master’s degree in public administration while living in West Newton.
“I received a letter from the State Department’s Personnel Office . . . that explained that the department had come to realize that a modern diplomatic service needed officers who had professional training in economics,’’ Mr. Bloomfield wrote in his memoir.
“In my reply I asked that I be one of them,’’ he said. “. . . The year at Harvard was to set me on a path that led to a series of good jobs and rapid promotions.’’
Mr. Bloomfield received the US State Department Meritorious Honor Award in 1958 and the Superior Honor Award in 1977 for his service in Ecuador.
He returned to Harvard in 1971, for a fellowship at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
While there, Mr. Bloomfield wrote a paper that was considered an authoritative look at the relationship between the United States and Latin America during the 1970s.
“He was very proud and greatly enjoyed his time at Harvard,’’ said his wife, Carey of Cambridge.
Despite the academic and diplomatic circles in which Mr. Bloomfield traveled, “he was very down to earth and approachable,’’ his wife said.
During the Weatherhead Center fellowship, he lived with his family in Lincoln, often taking his children to town parades, Harvard Square, Harvard Yard, and historic Lexington and Concord, said his daughter Ann Duvall of Newton.
“We loved our house, surrounded by green fields, with the town library right next door,’’ Mr. Bloomfield wrote. “We most enjoyed the spring. We had more time together at home, there being little to do at our offices at Harvard. I bought a ’66 Mustang convertible for $500 and drove it all over the place, including our backyard.’’
In 1982, after retiring from the Foreign Service, he became executive director of the World Peace Foundation, an international affairs research institute originally established in Boston that is now affiliated with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Mr. Bloomfield published three books while leading the foundation.
Ten years later, after retiring again, he became a senior visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
Mr. Bloomfield enjoyed teaching the nuances of foreign policy, his family said, and returned at the end of his career to Harvard as an affiliate at the Weatherhead Center.
Born in New Haven, Richard Joseph Bloomfield grew up in Washington, D.C.
He was awarded a scholarship to Gonzaga College High School, a Catholic prep school for boys in Washington, and then transferred to the Woodrow Wilson High School, from which he graduated in 1945.
“He was really grateful for the public school system and to meet a wider variety of kids, people from all walks of life and all backgrounds and all nationalities,’’ his wife said.
Mr. Bloomfield’s family said his interest in foreign policy came from his father, who worked in industrial hygiene and traveled extensively to Latin America to find solutions for black lung disease.
That upbringing “made him more aware of how other people and their cultures are different from each other,’’ his daughter said. “He was very liberal in that sense of being open to other people and who they are and where they come from.’’
At the end of World War II, Mr. Bloomfield served in the Coast Guard. Then he attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, graduating in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree.
In 1952, he passed the Foreign Service exam and within months began his career in La Paz, Bolivia, as an assistant to the agriculture attaché.
That launched a 30-year journey of packing, traveling, and embarking on new adventures with his family, moving them to Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, Bolivia, Austria, Mexico, and Uruguay for a variety of State Department jobs.
“He was humble about it, but was proud of his service,’’ said his wife, who added that “what he most enjoyed talking about was politics and US foreign policy.’’
Mr. Bloomfield’s family said he was a gifted writer, often submitting op-ed articles to newspapers.
An avid fisherman, he also enjoyed classical and jazz music, the television show “Seinfeld,’’ and what his family described as funky old cars.
In retirement, he wrote his memoirs while dividing his time between his Cambridge home and summers on Martha’s Vineyard and in Stockbridge.
His first wife, Jean Duvall, died in 1965, and his second marriage, to Patricia Koepfle of Chevy Chase, Md., ended in divorce.
In 1991, Mr. Bloomfield married Carey Goodson, after meeting her while working in Boston at the World Peace Foundation.
A service has been held for Mr. Bloomfield.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he leaves four sons, Thomas of Westminster, Md., John of Crofton, Md., Richard of Madison, Wis., and William of Fairfax, Va.; two stepsons, Eric Goodson of Wellesley and Christopher Goodson of Denver; and five grandchildren.
At times, Mr. Bloomfield’s family said, he liked to break into song and treat companions to renditions of Latin American folk songs.
“My father liked to have a good time,’’ his daughter said. “I think it was good for him because his job was so high stress and high power that I think he liked to unwind.’’
“He had a great sense of humor,’’ his wife said. “He was the least stuffy diplomat you would ever meet.’’