John Tierney at the Festival in 2017

John Tierney, retired Carter Caves naturalist and one of the best friends the Fraley Festival ever had, passed away on Jan. 11, 2020. He always supported the Fraley Festival and helped bring it back to Carter Caves in the late 1970’s where it has been ever since. John was also our connection to our past, having known JP and Annadeene Fraley and featured them in programming at Carter Caves for many years. He advocated for the festival to the park, his employer, and provided smooth transitions during changes over the years. In recent years, we have appreciated his work with the Friends of Carter Caves in providing concessions to the festival.

He brought his sense of humor, which I always valued, to his music and stories. I always looked forward to hearing him sing what I call the “Outhouse Song” at the festival and have fond memories of Annadenne singing that with him on stage. He conducted the storytelling workshop at the festival for many years and often had me in tears of laughter as I listened. Who can forget his hilarious telling of the endless waiting for the power company to restore electricity twelve days after a winter snowstorm? He certainly embodied the old-time style of storytelling of JP and other festival goers from years past.

John sharing a story

In addition to supporting local traditional music, he was a wonderful naturalist who had an impact on many people who came to Carter Caves. An article from 2017 in the Grayson Journal-Times quoted John: “Places like Carter Caves … you could be having a bad day and your whole spirit is renewed if you get out among nature. At least that’s what happens to me.” The way he lived conveyed this to many people who spent time with John on the trails or in the caves.

We will certainly miss John at the Fraley Festival and remember him with great fondness. We send our condolences to his family and friends.

—Barb Kuhns, Director, Fraley Festival of Traditional Music

Click here to view the Memorial Arrangements for John Tierney (link to outside site)