I grieve this day at the death of Pete Seeger. Musician, activist, educator, song-leader.
I saw Pete Seeger play several times. At one concert, he and Si Kahn sat beside me for a few moments while other musicians played. They asked me for the time. And Pete smiled at me when he thanked me.
I grieve. And the grief I feel for this man of hope and peace and justice and grace taps into other, deeper, older, rawer grief.
That grief too is for a musician. A musician who smiled at me often.
Forty years ago this day, on January 28, 1974, my father climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. They planned a trip to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where they were to advocate for funds for the Grove City Public School system.
At the time of his death, my father worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was also a private pilot. Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, the two colleagues decided my father would fly.
The plane went down near Emlenton. The crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and broke my heart.
Tonight, I raise a glass for Pete and for my father.
Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains.
And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.
On this day of his death, I raise a glass to Peter Seeger, to life lived, songs sung, justice sought, and one unforgettable smile.
On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and tears. To music made well and badly. To a multitude of remembered smiles.
Goodnight and joy be with you, Pete.
Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.
Goodnight and joy be with us all.
See you along the Trail.