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Herbert Tuckerman, 86; WWII veteran served two terms as GOP legislator


After serving under General George Patton during World War II, Boston native Herbert S. Tuckerman launched a career in conservative state politics amid a lifelong devotion to the Republican Party.

"His biggest passion was politics," said his son Richard, of Bethesda, Md. "He loved Republican politics beyond anything else."

Mr. Tuckerman, who served two terms as state representative from Beverly and two years as state senator from Essex County in the 1950s, died Aug. 8 at the North Shore Hospice in Danvers. He was 86 and had been diagnosed with leukemia four days before his death.

Mr. Tuckerman -- whose father, "gentleman jockey" Bayard Tuckerman Jr., helped lead a group of businessmen that founded Suffolk Downs in 1935 -- lived a life marked by rigid fitness routines and tight schedules, according to his family. His son ascribed the disciplined habits to Mr. Tuckerman's boyhood nannies, who were German.

"My father was practically pathologically punctual," Richard said.

Until two weeks before his death, Mr. Tuckerman exercised each morning in the gym at his Beverly home in Prides Crossing. In the summer, he swam 40 laps daily in his pool and often biked more than 10 miles to his daughter's home in Manchester well into his 80s.

Mr. Tuckerman grew up in Boston and in Hamilton, where his parents, Bayard and Phyllis (Sears), held glamorous gatherings at Savin Farm. Their guests during the 1920s included the duke of Windsor.

When he was 6 years old, Mr. Tuckerman won first prize for pony riding during a Hamilton horse show. A photo of him riding a pony appeared in the Globe.

Mr. Tuckerman's namesake was his maternal grandfather, Herbert Sears, whom Fortune Magazine identified as the richest man in Boston in the 1930s. Sears was an early financier of the first textile mills in Lowell.

He had a piercing wit but was an extremely private man who remains something of a mystery to his children.

He left all discipline to their mother and refused to entertain any debate about his political views, rendering politics off limits for family discussion, said his daughter, Ann Hall of Brookline and Manchester.

"He taught me three things," Richard said, "how to hold a golf club, how to shoot a shotgun, and how to vote Republican. I don't do any of them anymore."

Mr. Tuckerman attended Harvard, where he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Institute. He left college in 1941 to join the US Army and was sent to France as an intelligence officer in 1944.

From Paris, he wrote letters about facing enemy guns by day and Parisian society at night. He once wrote to his family, "The war is fine. Our mail is censored, but I can say our friend from Hamilton is doing very well."

The "friend from Hamilton" was Patton, according to his family.

On VE Day, Mr. Tuckerman took custody of the Nazi minister of the interior, Wilhelm Frick, who was later hanged.

Mr. Tuckerman had a twin brother, Richard, who fought in Burma and died in 1945, after suffering malaria and post-traumatic stress. His death shattered the family, and Mr. Tuckerman rarely spoke about him, even though they were close, his family said.

After the war, Mr. Tuckerman became partner at the insurance firm Obrion, Russell & Co.

He met Sarah (Cole), and they married in 1946. She died in 1998.

"On Saturday nights I would watch my parents put on black tie and long dress, and off they would go to someone's private dinner party," Ann recalled. "They were of the generation who, after the war, believed, 'Yes, we're still alive and it's New Year's Eve every Saturday.' "

Before he ran for state representative, Mr. Tuckerman served on the Governor's Council, a post his father once held. He threw his hat into the ring for lieutenant governor in 1958, but stepped aside for his friend Christian Herter.

"He actually enjoyed working with the politicians of Beverly and Boston," said his niece, Phoebe Cutler of San Francisco. "He enjoyed people who were not like him, who did not share his background at all."

The Tuckerman name is best known today for the New Hampshire ravine named after Mr. Tuckerman's cousin, Edward Jr., an expert on lichens.

Soon after his wife's death, Mr. Tuckerman married Carol Crumpton, who survives him.

Besides his son and daughter, Mr. Tuckerman also leaves his sister, Phyllis Cutler of Hamilton; two half-sisters, Jane Tuckerman of Massachusetts and Susan Tuckerman of New York; a grandson; and three granddaughters.

He was buried Aug. 24 at Harmony Gardens Cemetery in Salem after a private funeral.

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