Holyoke Soldiers’ Home dedicates viewing area in memory of 40-year National Guard airman

HOLYOKE – When he left the Air National Guard after serving for 40 years, James J. Tierney celebrated by collecting donations at his retirement party and creating an outdoor seating area at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home with a giant flag and a spectacular view of the mountain range and valley below.

Tierney, who died in 2015 at the age of 63, never had a chance to finish his plan for the garden. But his family and friends picked up where he left off and yesterday unveiled two viewing scopes that will give Soldiers’ Home residents and their visitors an eagle’s eye view of the area.

“I can’t think of a more fitting memorial to my father,” Christopher Tierney, of Virginia, said. “The view of the valley is beautiful.”

Tierney, who worked in insurance and retired from Dowd Agencies in 2014, was a master sergeant with the 104th Fighter Wing from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield for four decades and mainly served with the Food Services Squadron. He also volunteered at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and served as a member of its board of trustees.

“He always wanted to take care of the troops, that was his style,” said Retired Senior Master Sgt. Robert Castor, of Westfield, who served with Tierney for decades.

On Sunday family and friends gathered to dedicate the viewing scopes and the plaque which reads: “These viewers are dedicated to all United States veterans in recognition of their services by the friends and family of MSgt. James J. Tierney.”

Tierney’s wife, Deborah Panitch, lead the effort finish the fundraising efforts to complete the garden area, Erin Chrusciel, Tierney’s daughter, said.

“We are so happy to complete the project as he wanted it,” Panitch said.

During the dedication ceremony, a number of speakers shared stories about Tierney, who was also a dedicated member of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee and was honored with the Rohan Award in 1998. Many of the stories involved unexpected road trips.

“He loved life, he loved people and he loved a cold beer,” said Mark Collins, a family friend.

Collins told the story of being in Holyoke to visit family and friends when he ran into Tierney at a local store. His old friend told him to leave his car take a ride with him.

“Two hours later I was in South Boston,” he said.

The two-week training deployments with the National Guard sometimes brought the 104th Airlift Wing to different locations and Tierney invariably would find a car or another way to explore on their days off. He…

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