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John Tierney Jr., 79; had led City Council, school board

John J. Tierney Jr. was not a born politician, but he was a dedicated public servant.

''He was not a natural politician. He was shy and reserved and didn't like all the glad-handing that everybody had to do," John Tierney of Lincoln said yesterday of his father, 79, who died Sunday in his home in Kingston after a period of failing health.

Mr. Tierney served two terms on the Boston School Committee in the late 1950s and was chairman of the panel for a time. He served on the City Council from 1960 to 1964 and was president of the body for two years. While on the City Council he was particularly interested in the redevelopment of the waterfront, but he became disenchanted with the process.

''He got very frustrated in that kind of political arena," said his son. ''He felt that the bureaucracy and the civil service system made it impossible to make effective change."

After losing a reelection bid, Mr. Tierney was a budget analyst for the council. In 1966, he was appointed commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation by mayor John Collins. He held the post until 1968. ''He felt as parks commissioner he had a lot more liberty to be innovative," said his son.

Though constrained by a tight budget, Mr. Tierney spruced up the city's parks and installed planter boxes along city streets.

He then was assistant director of corporation for the Commonwealth until 1976. Until retiring about 10 years ago, he also maintained a private practice in Boston, specializing in real estate law.

The eldest of eight children, Mr. Tierney was born in South Boston. After graduating from Boston English High School in 1943, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and saw action during World War II as a flight navigator in the Pacific Theater.

He joined the Boston Police Department in 1948 and walked a beat nights while attending Suffolk University and Suffolk Law School during the day.

After passing the bar in 1956, he resigned from the Police Department and was a public defender for a year.

''He got involved in politics at the instigation of John W. McCormack, who was a friend of his father's. He considered him a mentor," said his son. McCormack, of South Boston, was speaker of the US House of Representatives.

In 1981, in one last hurrah, Mr. Tierney ran for Boston School Committee. ''I was out of politics for a long time, but I was getting frustrated by what I saw happening in the Boston schools," he said in a story published in the Globe in 1981. ''I spent $420 on the preliminary campaign. I think my mother-in-law gave my wife $60 for stamps that I haven't used yet."

Mr. Tierney placed seventh in the preliminary election, but lost in a runoff of the 10 top candidates.

In 1992, Boston replaced its elected School Committee with a board appointed by the mayor.

In addition to his son, Mr. Tierney leaves three other sons, James of Dorchester, Kevin of Boston, and David of Bangkok, Thailand; three daughters, Judith Coneeny of Kingston and Jacqueline Nolan and Elaine Johnson of Hingham; his former wife, Marjorie A. (Boyle) Tierney of Duxbury; three sisters, Marie Harrington of Westwood, Dorothy Megnia of West Roxbury, and Elizabeth Kane of Dennis; a brother, Michael of West Roxbury; and 14 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. today in Dolan Funeral Home in Milton. Burial will be in St. Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury.

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