Ira “Ike” Kalfus, 87, a retired news assistant in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, died of a brain tumor Dec. 24 at a nursing home in Dedham, Mass.

The death was confirmed by a nephew, Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and co-chief executive of Panera Bread Co.

Mr. Kalfus was born in Newark and served in the Army in Alaska during World War II. He graduated from George Washington University in 1946.

In 1952 he began working as a news assistant in the Times’ Washington bureau, an entry-level job often viewed as the first rung on a journalistic ladder extending to prestigious reporting and editing assignments.

Mr. Kalfus found he enjoyed his work as a news assistant, according to a colleague, Irvin Molotsky, and he served in that capacity until he retired in 1987.

He lived in Greenbelt until the death last year of his wife, the former Betty Deel, whom he married in 1980.

His health began to fail shortly after his wife’s death, and he moved to Brookline, Mass., to live with his nephew, later relocating to a nearby nursing home.

Survivors include four stepchildren, Erin Langley of Mauricetown, N.J., Barbara Kelley of Bluemont, Va., and Debra Whittle and Paul J. Neal Jr., both of Strasburg, Va.; and four grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes