(From The New York Times, July 11, 2013–”Toshi Seeger, whose husband the folk singer Pete Seeger has credited for at least half his success — from helping to organize the first Newport Folk Festival to campaigning to clean the Hudson River — died on Tuesday at their home in Beacon, N.Y. She was 91.”)
In 1972, when I was a teenager of only 16, I spent part of my summer vacation aboard the sloop Clearwater as part of the volunteer crew. I met Toshi and Pete Seeger at one of the many stops we made along the Hudson River, championing the then nascent cause of environmentalism. I remember sitting on the deck of the Clearwater next to Pete, singing folk songs with him. I never did much singing and didn’t really know how, but that didn’t matter. When Pete was around, you just couldn’t help but sing with him.
And, wherever Pete was, Toshi was always there, too. She arrived on board the Clearwater even before Pete and talked to each of us to make sure we had everything we needed. Like any mother, she had to make sure we had enough to eat and brought us a huge basket filled with her homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She had made everything herself; the bread, the peanut butter and the jelly. They were not the best sandwiches any of us had ever eaten, but we didn’t care; we were grateful and finished them all in no time at all and with smiles on our faces. Toshi’s joyful and nurturing spirit was as infectious as Pete’s singing. We just couldn’t help but love her.
Together, over the course of that summer and the next, Toshi and Pete helped shape my world view and inform my developing morality. Now, as then, I know we must be good stewards of the Earth and loving neighbors to each other. Most of all, we should never ignore the songs in our hearts.
I will never forget them and I will always love them. I simply cannot imagine Pete without Toshi. It is with a mix of deep sorrow and joyful memories that I extend my sympathies to Pete and his family. We will all miss Toshi.