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Toshi Seeger, Beloved Activist and Wife of Pete Seeger, Dies at 91

Jon Queally

Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, the wife of legendary folk musician Pete Seeger, has died at the age of 91, according to Sing Out magazine and others.

According to family friends, Toshi died at the couple's longtime home in New York's Hudson Valley on July 9, just nine days short of what would have been their 70th wedding anniversary.

Known and celebrated as an artist and activist in her own right, Toshi Seeger was often seen as the grounding force throughout her husband's career and over the nearly seven decades of marriage they shared together.

“Theirs was a true partnership,” writes Sing Out's Mark Moss in his remeberance. “Without Toshi’s counsel and support, and always outspoken and direct opinions, it’s clear to anyone who ever met these two remarkable people that, without Toshi, Pete would never have had the foundation and freedom to do the work that made him so legendary."

Describing Toshi as a "consummate dreamer and optimist," Moss also recounts her early life and how she met young Seeger:

Toshi was born in Munich, Germany, to an American mother and a Japanese father. Her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was 6 months old, as soon as it became legal for the two to be married here. They found an apartment in New York City, where her father found work as the building’s caretaker.

Toshi grew up in a family of progressives. She went to the High School of Music and Art, and . After a few years of friendship, meeting Pete at square dances around NYC, Pete and Toshi were married in 1943, just before Pete was about to ship out overseas. She was age 21 at the time. [...]

In 1949, following the war, the two moved to Beacon, NY, where they raised their children Danny, Mika and Tinya. They built a cabin for shelter, and lived in that beautiful woodland mountain ever since.

"The thoughts of Clearwater's staff, board, and crew are with Pete and the Seeger family and friends today," read a status update on the Facebook page of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, where Seeger had devoted much of her organizing efforts over the years. "Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger was a powerful force for good who made many positive contributions to the world, and she will be sorely missed by all who knew her."

In a separate statement, Clearwater's executive director Jeff Rumpf said Toshi's death is a “huge loss for Clearwater and the world.”

“Toshi is a real mother, a mother for social justice, a mother for festivals all over the world and people singing,” he said. “She is a mother that embodies all the spirit your own mother does and spreads it out over the community. We’re really going to miss Toshi.”

And the local Hudson Valley Times-Record reports:

In 1949, Pete and Toshi moved to Beacon, where they raised children Danny, Mika and Tinya in a cabin by the Hudson River. It was there that Pete would chop down the trees for firewood and fitness, and Toshi would help Pete advocate for social justice, free speech and cleaner waters. Their efforts would grow into the first Great Hudson River Revival, the cornerstone event for the nonprofit organization Clearwater. Toshi was for years the artistic programmer of the Revival.

Residents of Beacon were sad to hear of the news of Seeger's passing, noting that she was a major force in what made the city an artistic and creative vessel.

"What Pete means to Beacon and certainly Toshi as well, they're as important to Beacon as the mountain is," said Dan Rigney, president of the Beacon Arts Community Association.

"Our hearts are all breaking tonight for them and we really particularly want Pete to know how much Toshi meant to us, and how much he means to us as well," Rigney added.


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