In honor of today's centennial of Pete Seeger's birth, I'm re-posting this blog my father, RFC Founder Robert Meeropol, and I wrote following Pete's death in January, 2014. A collection of photos, videos, memories, songs and stories about Pete from the RFC community is available here.
We woke up this morning to the news that Pete Seeger had died.
My (Robert’s) first memory of Pete was seeing him and the rest of the Weavers at Carnegie Hall just before Christmas in 1955. I was eight years old. My parents, Abel and Anne Meeropol, who knew the Seegers, took me to visit them at their home in the Hudson River Valley of New York the following year.
I remember that visit. Pete had a way of engaging children. He asked me to get his long neck banjo out of its case in the bedroom and bring it to him. I proudly held it against my chest with its long neck projecting above my head as I marched back to the living room. That’s why I banged the top of it on the door jam. I was mortified, but he didn’t seem to mind. I found out only last year, when talking with one of his grandchildren at Toshi’s memorial, that Pete hadn’t built the doorway high enough, and my accident merely provided further proof.
Not surprisingly, I (Jenn) grew up listening to and singing Pete Seeger's songs. My favorite early Pete memory is meeting him for the first time with my younger sister when she was about 3 or 4. She took one look at him and whispered “garbage, garbage, garbage” (part of the chorus of her favorite Pete song) before hiding behind our mom. He smiled at her and sang the rest of the chorus.
Pete was the headliner at the kick-off benefit concert for the Rosenberg Fund for Children in 1990, and in 1997 performed in another RFC benefit. He and his wife Toshi were original members of our Advisory Board.
We could count on Pete to come to our aid. He joined us again in 2001, when he and his grandson Tao helped us celebrate the RFC’s 10th anniversary. When, in 2003, pneumonia prevented him from joining the RFC’s 50th anniversary commemoration of Ethel and Julius’ executions, he sent a heartfelt, but unnecessary, apology. We knew the only reason he didn’t make it was because it was physically impossible.
Pete was always there for us, our family and our projects. And perhaps the most remarkable thing about him is that this was no exception. For the last 75 years he was there for almost every progressive undertaking you could imagine. There simply was no one else like him.
Robert and Jenn Meeropol