Peter James Tierney of Berkeley Heights, NJ passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 28, 2017 at his home at the age of 69.
Family and friends are invited to attend a memorial mass January 6, at 10 a.m., at Our Lady of Peace Church, 111 South Street, New Providence. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Paul Ippolito Berkeley Memorial. Please visit ippolitofuneralhomes.com for additional information and to send condolences. Family and friends are also invited to attend a repast in celebration of Peter’s life following the mass. In lieu of flowers please visit Peter’s memorial contribution page at https://www.inmemoryof-memorial.org/ to make donations in his memory to the Lustgarten Foundation, Rainforest Trust or to the Summit Animal Rescue Association Inc.
Peter was born in Plainfield, NJ to Ellen Elizabeth (nee Shubert) and James Edward Tierney. Peter was a graduate of St. Bernard’s Grammar School in Plainfield and Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains where he was a member of the first graduating class of 1966. An outstanding athlete, he captained the baseball and basketball teams and was the leading scorer for his basketball team and All-County in 1966. He was also chosen as the first-ever Mr. Union Catholic.
In 1971 Peter graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and government. A thee-year starter and outstanding player for the FDU basketball team, Peter was 1970-71 captain of the #1 ranked defensive basketball team in the nation. He and his teammates were inducted into the FDU Hall of Fame in 2009. From 1975-1980 Peter was assistant varsity basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Peter’s amazing teaching and coaching career spanned 37 1/2 years and more as he first worked as a teacher, basketball and baseball coach at Union Catholic High School, then Rahway State Prison, Absegami High School, and finally in 1981, at Summit High School. Peter also earned a master’s degree in education and psychology at Kean University.
In 1981 Peter became the head coach of the Summit High School boys basketball team and taught social studies, US history, and law. While at Summit High he also coached the girls basketball team and, until October of 2017, he coached the girls and boys tennis teams. Over the years Peter’s boys and girls teams earned a variety of championships under his guidance. He also earned numerous Coach of the Year awards in basketball as well as tennis. In 2016 the mayor of Summit dedicated the Tatlock tennis court to Peter and named June 13th as Coach Peter Tierney Recognition Day. This past fall Peter was inducted into both the Summit High School Hall of Fame as well as the Union Catholic Hall of Fame for his notable contributions as both an educator and coach. One of the secrets to Peter’s success as a coach is the unavoidable truth that he was an exceptional teacher. Among the academic and teaching awards he received at Summit were the 2003 Star Ledger Scholars Teacher Award, 2004 Summit High School Faculty Teachers Award, 2005 Union County Best Teachers Award, and 2006 Howard Anderson Coaching and Teaching Award. His standards and expectations of performance in the classroom were high and were echoed on the field of play.
Man, myth, legend. “The Hawk,” as he was known by his teammates, was the epitome of courage and strength. He was a fighter and a motivator, a role model warrior who battled on until his last day. He touched so many lives as an educator, coach, mentor, father, son, treasured friend and husband. Peter was a kind, humble, and loving soul. His charismatic personality along with his wit and the twinkle in his eye could make anyone who just met him feel like they had known him for years. He loved to smile and laugh and kid people. He knew that life was not just about being successful in school or at work; the most important thing was to be a good person. Peter not only spoke about having a good heart and a positive character, but demonstrated these characteristics in all his interactions with people.
He first met his soulmate, Mariann, in 1985 while taking grad school classes at Kean College. It was love at first sight for them both, and since then they have been inseparable. The best of friends, lovers, each the other’s biggest fan, Peter and Mariann are a perfect example of what true love looks like. In 1989, they welcomed their first born, Katherine Mary, into their lives. In 1991 came Allison Mae. Both Katie and Allie would follow in their father’s footsteps to become teachers and coaches. The youngest, Laura Lee Elizabeth, was born in 1994. All three daughters were coached by their father and eventually went on to be exemplary collegiate athletes, just like their Dad. Peter taught his girls compassion, humility, strength, and resilience. He taught them to always try to make the right choice, even if it might be the more difficult one. He taught them to not sweat the small stuff.
Peter was an avid golfer and Baltimore Orioles fanatic. He was a voracious reader of history and a dedicated picker on the guitar, and a singer. By nature he was kind to everyone he met, and extremely generous. He couldn’t help but always root for the underdog. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and former students and athletes.
Peter is survived by his beloved wife of 30 years, Mariann (nee Zaranka) Tierney, his loving mother Ellen Tierney, and cherished daughters Katie Tierney, Allie Tierney and her fiancée John Moll, and Laura Tierney and her boyfriend Tyler Eck. Peter was predeceased by his father James Tierney.
Peter will be in our hearts forever, but he now has a new role: He is our greatest guardian angel. Peter would never want us to mourn his passing, but rather to celebrate life. So, as Peter would often say in his gentle way, with a hand reaching out for your shoulder, or arm or hand: “Peace, God bless, and always be kind to one another.”