Obituary: Martin S. Tierney, 1941‑2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Martin S. Tierney, 1941‑2020

Restoration architect helped shape towns and villages across Vermont

Published December 26, 2020 at 6:15 a.m.
Updated December 26, 2020 at 5:12 p.m.

Martin Tierney - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Martin Tierney

Martin Tierney was a restoration architect whose skills shaped towns and villages all across Vermont. For 43 years he worked on numerous projects and buildings, including Shelburne Farms and the Richmond Round Church. But his work, which lives on, is only a facet of who Martin was. His greater legacy is the impact he had on people. As family and friends from Vermont and around the world said goodbye to him last week, they described Martin as a teacher, Renaissance man (which would have made him chuckle), gentleman, beloved friend and, above all, kind soul who knew how to listen and make people smile. He was a graceful, charming and compassionate man. So many expressed that Martin was a huge influence on their lives.

Martin was born in Greenwich Village on February 24, 1941, into an eccentric, bohemian family. Like his relatives, he eschewed the ordinary and pursued adventure. Although he wasn’t the best of students, his teachers loved him. He attended three different colleges, eventually studying architecture and earning his master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1963, he married Johanna Crockwell and together they had two beloved children, Megan and Cole.

After Martin and Johanna divorced, Martin met his wife and soul mate Linda Tierney. Much to everyone’s surprise, Linda and Johanna became close friends, uniting the family. Throughout the more than four decades they spent together, Martin and Linda basked in the love of their family and each other.

Even while Martin was working, their life was full of art, exploration and motion. On a whim, in the 1980s Martin and Linda bought a house in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where they had an amazing second life. They spent the last 20 years living in Italy as much as they could (being Italophiles), dancing the tango, learning Italian and gleaning the most out of life. Martin's love of music fed his soul, and he sang with music groups and friends and played his guitar. He was a devotee of fly-fishing. He played squash — competitively and gentlemanly — for decades with a group of beloved buddies. He loved opera and classical music as much as he loved watching the Friday Night Fights. He found the time in his busy life to get a black belt in Shotokan karate, practicing his kicks around the house, much to Linda’s dismay. In recent years, he spent time writing short stories, working on a memoir, sketching and painting watercolors.

Countless Vermont communities have benefited from Martin’s passion for bringing beautiful historic buildings back to life. He restored the buildings at Shelburne Farms, where he lovingly worked for 17 years; the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester; the Richmond Round Church; and the Warner Block on Church Street and Union Station in Burlington, to name just a few projects. He also worked on many town plans and served as chair of the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and as a board member of Preservation Trust of Vermont. He deeply loved his community and his home on Burlington’s Lakeview Terrace.

In 2018, when Martin was 77, a DNA test revealed he was part of a family he never knew about, so the list of his survivors is long: Martin leaves his wife, Linda; daughter Megan Tierney-Ward, her husband Bill Ward and two granddaughters Kyla and Taylor; son Cole Tierney and his wife Lori Tierney; sister-in-law Pam Graham and her husband Ted Panicucci; niece Lindsay Francescutti, her husband Tony and their two children Rae and Sy; niece Ali and her daughter Laska; sister-in Law Nancy Stalnaker, her husband Howard and their two children Jake and David; brother-in-law Jerry Rosen, his wife Victoria and their son Alex; sister-in-law Anne Bergeron, her daughter Aleck Gues, Aleck’s husband Patrick Juliani and their children Leonardo, Milo, and Ulysses, all of Montréal; stepsister Ingrid Waldren and her husband Rene; former sister-in-law Hanne Tierney; and the entire extended Grazzini family in Italy. Martin also leaves his four newly discovered sisters Cathey Gilbert Dennis, Gerri Russo, Joann Zemp and Jan Grossman and their wonderful families — an unexpected and delightful surprise that gave Martin’s life new dimension, delight and even more love.

Martin is predeceased by his mother Alice West, his father Myles Tierney, his bigger- than-life brother Myles Tierney, his niece Loren Tierney, his nephew Myles Tierney and his newly discovered biological father Wendell Gilbert.

Martin’s story wouldn’t be complete without including the fact that he was a recovering alcoholic for 40 years. Extremely active in his cherished AA community, he took strength and solace in helping others and being helped to live a life “second to none,” as he was fond of saying. He leaves behind his second family: his AA family.

Martin’s life was one of excitement, hard work, contentment, philosophy, spirituality, love and, above all, joy.

We are immensely grateful to the staff at the McClure Miller Respite House, where Martin received expert, compassionate care and comfort. He passed away swiftly and peacefully of complications from a blood disorder that was diagnosed in March.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the newly created Martin Tierney Fund at Shelburne Farms, established to honor and continue the work that was dearest to Martin’s heart. A memorial service will be held post-pandemic.

One of Martin’s favorite poems, Raymond Carver’s “Late Fragment,” sums up his life.

And did you get what

You wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself Beloved on the earth.

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