Obituary: Jennifer M. Tierney / Rower, runner led an active, adventurous life
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Jennifer M. Tierney couldn't seem to sit still. A competitive rower since her days at prep school, she expanded into running marathons, scuba diving and traveling across continents.
"Jennifer was a true athlete. She didn't have a mean bone in her body, but she loved to compete with people," her father, John Tierney, said. "Everybody loved her. She had the most wonderful smile."
Ms. Tierney, of Verona, died last Friday at age 41 from a blood clot that developed after she injured her knee.
Her father recalled how she had been drawn to competitive sports. Like her father, she attended Culver Academy, a prep school in the state of Indiana, and once there, she dove into the girls crew team, where she "competed and practiced day and night," said Mr. Tierney, 70, of Shadyside.
Her love of athletics didn't stop at prep school. After graduating and moving to Pittsburgh, she was part of the Steel City Rowing Club's inception in 1996. Ms. Tierney was the club's first adult member, according to Dori Tompa, the club's executive director and Ms. Tierney's longtime friend.
She was very active, Ms. Tompa said, and became a cornerstone of the club. She always offered to take what Ms. Tompa described as the most difficult seat in the boat, the coxswain.
"Any chance she had to be part of something, she took," Ms. Tompa said. "She was just always [at the club], helping with something." Because of her experience, Ms. Tierney acted as a mentor for other adult rowers who were new to the sport.
Linda Turner, one of Ms. Tierney's rowing proteges, said Ms. Tierney offered her tips on how to improve in the sport and "went above and beyond" to help her outside of rowing, too.
Ms. Turner, 60, of Oakmont, who worked at a Giant Eagle near the rowing club and doesn't own a car, said Ms. Tierney would stop by the store after her shift and give her a lift home.
"She wasn't a woman I knew for a long time," Ms. Turner said. "But people don't do that anymore."
When Ms. Tierney's mother, Maureen McDonnell Tierney, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the early 2000s, she directed her energy toward raising money to find a cure. Mr. Tierney recalled how his daughter "devoted 80-90 percent of her life" to running and rowing marathon races as fundraisers.
She did not stop after her mother died in 2008, Mr. Tierney said. Last year, she participated in a half-marathon in Las Vegas to raise money for leukemia.
Ms. Tierney attended Chatham College, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and was an accountant.
"Jennifer knew no fear," Mr. Tierney said. "She had an eye for adventure, an eye for helping people and an eye for competitive sports."
In addition to her father, she is survived by her brother, John Thomas Tierney IV of Shadyside.
Her family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Multiple Myeloma Institute in Little Rock, Ark.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am