John Tierney

Longtime Carter Caves State Resort Park Naturalist John Tierney and the popular tourist destination near Olive Hill were born in the same year, 1946. The park land, caves and surrounding properties had previously been held by private owners. TIM PRESTON / CNHI NEWS SERVICE

Longtime Carter Caves naturalist, and friend of the park and community, John Prichard Tierney has passed away at the age of 73. Tierney, “entered into rest,” his obituary reads, on the evening of Jan. 11, at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead.

Tierney had a huge impact on the development of Carter Caves State Park as a naturalist there through much of his career, and following retirement as an active member of the Friends of Carter Caves group. His legacy will forever be intertwined with that of the park. For instance, the restaurant at the lodge, Tierney's Cavern, was named in his honor, and many credit him with helping make Carter Caves the park it is today.

“Carter Caves is what it is because of him, because of his vision,” said park manager Chris Perry. “His love for the park is unmatched by anyone, and we were very fortunate to have him. Anywhere you go in the park, you see where John Tierney left his mark, and the memories people have shared since his passing is only a testament to what he meant to our visitors and employees he worked with. He was indeed a special man; one that sets our area apart from other areas. I was not only proud to call him a colleague but a friend as well.”

Tierney’s services will be held at First Christian Church, in Olive Hill, where he was an active member of the congregation. A celebration of life visitation will be held Friday from 6-9 p.m. with services on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Tierney, who was affectionately known as “Old Geezer,” was born in Boyd County, on Oct. 15, 1946, the son of Francis J. “Bud” Tierney and Mary Belle Prichard Tierney. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Lelana Graves Tierney, and two sons; Paul Jason Tierney, and wife Jennifer, of Olive Hill, and John Graves Tierney, and wife Susan, of Georgetown.

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to First Christian Church, or to the Friends of Carter Caves. Donations to First Christian Church can be sent to PO Box 538, Olive Hill, KY 41164. Donations to Friends of Carter Caves can be sent to 344 Caveland Drive, Olive Hill, KY 41164.

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