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Eleanor Stier, 84; Brookline nurse had son with Nobel laureate mathematician John F. Nash Jr.

Eleanor Agnes Stier, a Brookline nurse who had a son with Nobel laureate mathematician John F. Nash Jr., died Wednesday at Jesmond Nursing Home in Nahant. She was 84.

The 2001 Oscar-winning film ''A Beautiful Mind" did not mention Miss Stier or the son she had with Nash, John David Stier, 51. But for a woman who raised her child as an unmarried single mother in an era when it carried a heavy stigma, that was not a bad thing, her son said.

''She was pleased not to be embarrassed about it," John Stier said of his mother's reaction to the movie.

Born in Boston on Jan. 2, 1921, as the oldest of two children, Miss Stier battled adversity from a young age.

By 16, she was living on her own after a falling-out with her mother. She later told her son that she had slept in the janitor's closet at a clinic where she worked for about a month before someone noticed and gave her a bed to sleep in.

Miss Stier attended Rhode Island School of Nursing and worked as a nurse in area hospitals and nursing homes until she was well into her 70s. She retired from nursing in 1996.

When her son was young, Miss Stier often worked the night shift while he stayed with baby-sitters, he said. She was poor, he added, and he had to live in foster homes for brief periods early in his childhood.

''We weren't wealthy people or anything like that," said John Stier, who like his mother became a registered nurse. ''She always made sure I was well fed and clothed."

Miss Stier's relationship with Nash, who battled schizophrenia and received a Nobel Prize in economics, was brief. The two met in the early 1950s while she was caring for him as a patient.

Nash regularly visited Miss Stier early on after their son was born, but was not around for much of his childhood, John Stier said. Nash went on to marry Alicia Larde, with whom he had a second son. Nash and Larde divorced but have since remarried and remain together.

''I think she tried to forgive most of the time, but I think there was some hurt and disappointment still there," said John Stier's fiancée, Martha Jo Begley.

Determined not to let her age or lack of a driver's license slow her down, Miss Stier continued working part time -- seven days a week, about four hours a day -- into her 80s as a home health aide helping elderly people, including a 99-year-old woman, her son said.

''She would go over and make sure the woman had her dinner, and make sure she was clean and make sure she was tidy," John Stier said.

At 5 feet 5 inches with dark brown eyes and smooth skin, Ms. Stier took pride in her looks. She kept her hair parted to one side, and often wore nice clothes and high heels, Begley said. And although she was a private person, she was most in her element with groups of children and animals, including her companion, Spooky the cat.

Her health began to deteriorate after she fell and suffered a concussion in June 2003, her son said. He had moved her into the nursing home less than a week before she died.

In addition to her son and Begley, Miss Stier leaves her sister-in-law, Marie McCormack; a niece, Anne Fratalia; and a nephew, Michael McCormack.

A funeral Mass will be said tomorrow at 10 a.m. in St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Brookline. Burial will be in Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline.

Scott Goldstein can be reached at

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