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May 2, 2014

Admirers wrestle with how to honor Pete Seeger

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Someday, it might be possible to take the Pete Seeger Bridge to Pete Seeger Park and listen to Pete Seeger music by the Pete Seeger statue.

Plans abound to honor the recently deceased folk legend, with a few early events planned on what would have been his 95th birthday Saturday. But trying to honor a hardcore egalitarian like Seeger raises some questions.

How do you single out a singer who revered the masses? Is it OK to bestow honors on Seeger that he declined during his life? And would the old eco-warrior want his name on a $3.9 billion bridge serving suburban car culture?

"He did everything possible to not take credit for anything. It was always a group effort," said George Mansfield, a council member in Beacon, the Hudson River city near where Seeger and his late wife, Toshi, lived for decades. "People say 'How do you best memorialize Pete?' and everyone agrees the best way to memorialize him is to continue what he started."

Seeger, who died in January at age 94, was known around the world for his activism and gentle voice on such signature songs as "If I Had a Hammer," ''Turn, Turn, Turn," ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He was also known closer to home for his deep connection to the Hudson River and his tireless efforts in the movement to clean it up.

That's why Beacon plans to rename its riverside park for Seeger and his wife, who were instrumental in converting the former dump into Riverfront Park. And more controversially, some people want to put Seeger's name on the massive span that will replace the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson just north of New York City.

"I just imagine a family driving across the bridge years from now and some kids says, 'Who is Pete Seeger?' That kind of thing. That would be cool," said Bill Swersey, a New York City resident who liked the bridge-naming idea so much he created a Change.org petition that has more than 14,000 signatures.

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