BEACON, N.Y. -- Friends, proteges, neighbors, fellow musicians and admirers stood on line in a soft winter rain Sunday to attend a memorial service for singer/songwriter and activist Pete Seeger, who died last week at 94.
The line in front of Libby Funeral Home in Beacon -- Seeger's longtime home -- moved slowly indoors to a gathering where poets, musicians and friends stood in a quiet corner near an urn that contained Seeger's ashes to sing songs and tell stories about Seeger.
Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, said the legendary folk singer felt a strong sense of responsibility to his country, the world and his audience, as if each was a family member.
"Of course he was more personal and intimate with his family," Cagill-Jackson said as he stood beneath an umbrella greeting friends. "But (Seeger) didn't think of himself as just a singer of songs. He was part of the community and believed we all shared the responsibility of caring for each other and the environment."
Cahill-Jackson said his grandfather genuinely cared about his audience and lived his life that way.
"There are many, many ways to contribute and create and he cared about each person her met," Jackson-Cahill said. "Even one man who came to a concert to assassinate him -- Pete sang with him -- and that man went away being touched by him."
Seeger was also an anti-war, civil rights and labor activist and a controversial figure over his lifetime.
Jerry Kleiner, who was related to Seeger through his wife Toshi who died last July 9, said Pete was a true leader by example and never hated his critics.
"You can sing the songs and tell the stories, but Pete lived the life," Kleiner said. "He never left the people or the community. He was part of it. He was genuine and unafraid to take part. He paid attention to each person he met. That's special for a man who achieved that fame."
Libby Funeral Home Director Jarett Quick said the memorial was befitting the man. Visitors filled two rooms of the funeral home where photos, paintings and other memorabilia were placed.
"Pete Seeger was just who he said he was and there was no pretense," Quick said. "We wanted to be here for his memorial -- a quiet, sharing time. We know there will be other bigger memorials and events, but this was Pete's home. He was our friend."
Hundreds, including members of the Seeger family, packed the Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon last Wednesday for an open mic tribute to Seeger.
On Feb. 22, the Falcon in Marlboro will host a tribute to the musician, whose timeless tunes include, “If I Had a Hammer.” Happy Traum, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, David Bernz and Jacob Bernz, and Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia are among those scheduled to perform. Bethany Yarrow is the daughter of Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Those attending are asked to bring food for a potluck dinner.
Admission is free. Call 845-236-7970 or visit www.liveatthefalcon.com for information.
Cahill-Jackson said the family would plan a memorial that would take place later this spring in New York City.
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