Conrad “Connie” H. Biber passed away peacefully, shortly after midnight, on October 23, 2022, one day before his 98th birthday. Connie will be lovingly remembered by his wife of over 68 years, Marianne; children, Barbara, Catharina, Madeleine, Charlotte and Alice; grandchildren, Peter, Cedric, Damien, Bruno and Sonja; siblings, Thomas and Roxana; and numerous other family members and friends.
Connie was born in Zürich, Switzerland on October 24, 1924 to his parents Madeleine and Werner Biber. He had two older half-siblings, Werner and Engi, and 3 younger siblings, Ursula, Thomas and Roxana.
Connie was predeceased by his parents Werner and Madeleine, and siblings Engi, Werner, and Ursula.
He attended High School at the «Freies Gymnasium» in Zürich, receiving his Matura on 20 September 1943. After the Matura, he served on active duty in the Swiss military (artillery division, with cannons and horses) until the end of World War Two. Hungry during this time, and seeing Officers consuming fried eggs in restaurants, Connie decided to continue his service to be promoted to Officer of the Swiss Army. He remained lifelong friends with his group of Officer cadets. Connie went on to take up physics at the University of Basel, where he had much success and his studies culminated in a PhD in 1956.
He married Marianne R. Constam on March 18, 1954. They lived in Münchenstein (Baselland) until Connie had finished his doctorate in Physics. Subsequently they chose to immigrate to the US as a result of an employment offer at Keuffel & Esser, a drafting instrument and supplies company in NY City. This offer in the US comprised a monthly salary multiple times that of any of his offers at Swiss companies. In addition, his new employer promised that, should he stay with them for at least two years, the company would pay for the trans-Atlantic move. This move took place on a seemingly endless ship journey, during the entirety of which Connie was miserably seasick. A distant American relative met him at the dock in New York and expressed some doubt as to whether Connie would last long in the US! He did, but he definitely preferred solid ground beneath his feet.
First settling in Maplewood, New Jersey, then moving to Needham, Massachusetts Connie had a 33-year career at Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, MA. He held numerous patents at Polaroid, the most distinguished one being the «sonar» autofocus technique used for Polaroid’s instant cameras. Upon his retirement in 1993, his employees made a bound copy of all his patents as a parting gift.
Connie also developed an electronic thermometer for use in hospitals as a side business. His wife, Marianne, often spent late nights meticulously taking care of all the bookkeeping and other administrative and logistic affairs of the company, and Connie trained his daughters to assemble, solder, troubleshoot and repair the thermometers. To their delight, this job paid way better than any babysitting job at the time.
Connie and Marianne were very proud of the fact that all five daughters graduated with science or engineering degrees from MIT, a feat very few, if any, other parents of MIT students have managed to repeat.
Connie was extremely gifted in all things technical. He was able to explain how any machine, old or new, or any scientific process worked. He loved cars, and maintained, improved and repaired all the family cars in the era before they became completely electronic. In 1963 Connie traveled to Italy to pick up his newest purchase of a light blue Lancia Flavia coupe (sports car). He owned this car until well into the 2000’s. Whenever it needed a spare part which was no longer available, he turned to his fellow Lancia enthusiasts in the international Lancia Club. These friendships even led to a trip and a tour around Australia with the local Lancia Club!
One of the projects Connie was most proud of was the family house he designed and built on Stratford Road in Needham. It was spacious, with a bedroom for each of the five children, a large kitchen, a laundry chute and a living room with a cathedral ceiling. This cathedral ceiling allowed for an enormous Christmas tree, always selected and cut from the family farm in New Hampshire. On Christmas Eve, real candles were lit on the tree, creating a magical picture.
Connie was an avid skier (even skiing in Utah with his grandchildren at the age of 81) and passionate hiker. When the children were growing up, he often took them on long and spectacular hikes in the Swiss Alps and around the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Although they did not all always appreciate these equally, all his daughters ended up loving the mountains – some more for hiking, some more for photography!
Connie’s other passion was gardening and fruit trees. He loved being on the farm in Campton, New Hampshire, maintaining the fields and the property with his tractors and bulldozer, digging up rocks, pulling out trees, mowing the fields, digging up more rocks, repairing the mower when a rock hit the blade, planting apple trees, digging up more rocks, planting potatoes, harvesting potatoes and digging up even more rocks. He carefully labeled each apple tree in the orchard on a map, so that the family always knew which variety of apple they were picking. Connie was devastated to sell this farm when, several years ago, it became too much for him and Marianne to keep up. His favorite activity was making apple cider in the fall, often helped out by neighbors or visiting family members. The first cider press his children gave to him as a gift was manual, but not for long. He had soon added belts and a motor to eliminate most of the manual labor, and cider-making became a beloved annual tradition.
Connie also loved photography. When the kids became independent, Marianne and Connie traveled all over the world, including Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu in South America, on guided photography tours for spectacular photographs. He spent countless hours on his computer, refining the pictures, printing them out and placing them all over the house. The bookshelf in Needham is filled with an entire row of photo albums.
Connie was a very active member of the Swiss Society of Boston. He was president for many many years, and very involved in the first of August (the Swiss National Holiday) celebrations that the Society hosted. Despite his advanced age he was able to enjoy this year’s celebration in Walpole in July.
Memorial donations in Connie’s name can be made to: Swiss Society of Boston, 50 Florence Street, Melrose, MA 02176 via https://swisssocietyboston.org/ or