September 2013

Toshi Aline Ohta Seeger July 1, 1922 to July 9, 2013

Toshi Aline Ohta Seeger, wife of folk singer Pete Seeger, passed away peacefully July 9, at the age of 91. Ohta Seeger was related to the Ohta family, of Potrero Hill, whom the Seegers visited occasionally.

Pete Seeger, a noted environmentalist and member of the folk band, The Weavers, achieved fame with the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” But despite her husband’s celebrity, the couple were “partners in every sense of the word,” according to a remembrance at the Libby Funeral Home, located in the couple’s hometown of Beacon, New York. “They collaborated on everything from building their log cabin [to] organizing festivals big and small,” the remembrance said. The two met in 1939, and married in 1943, when Seeger was on leave from World War II military service. Ohta Seeger died 11 days before the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary. 

Ohta Seeger was born in Munich, Germany, July 1, 1922, to Virginia Harper Berry of Washington, D.C., and Takashi Ueda Ohta of Shikoku, Japan. The couple brought their daughter to the United States when she was six months old. The family lived in Greenwich Village and Woodstock, New York, from the 1920s to the 1940s. Her parents were part of the theater community, and Ohta Seeger “grew up surrounded by art and theater,” the remembrance said. She graduated from the High School of Music and Art in 1940. 

Ohta Seeger had an impact altogether apart from her husband. She was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt, as well as a volunteer, writer, filmmaker, potter and festival organizer. Her films are part of the Library of Congress’ collection, though she had no training as a filmmaker. At 85 years of age, she served as the executive producer of a documentary of her husband, Pete Seeger, The Power of Song, which won an Emmy Award.

In 1965, Ohta Seeger marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1970s and 1980s she pioneered environmental and accessibility changes at festivals, including providing wheelchair access, sign language interpretation and recycling. 

She’s survived by her daughters, Tinya, of Beacon, New York, and Mika, of Tiverton, Rhode Island; son Daniel of Topanga, California; and her husband, Pete. Also, surviving her are eight grandchildren — Sonya Cramer, Rufus Cohen, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Cassandra Seeger, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, Moraya Degeare, Penny Bossom-Seeger, and Isabelle Bossom-Seeger — three great-grandchildren — Dio Cramer, Gabel Cramer, and Liam Oulton — as well as nieces and nephews of the Ohta, Dixon, and Seeger families. 

Preceding her in death were her parents, her brother, Allen Homare Ohta; her sister, Aline Dixon; and a sister-in-law, Penny Seeger, whom she raised as a daughter. 

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