It's not every day you receive encouragement from the dead. But that's what Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation, found in her mailbox earlier this week.
Along with lovers of American folk music everywhere, Alexander spent much of Tuesday mourning the death of legend Pete Seeger. Then she opened her mailbox to find a letter postmarked Beacon, New York.
That was the first clue. Alexander looked inside the envelope to find a note signed "94-year-old Pete," accompanied by a drawing of a banjo, and realized what she was holding.
"It was such an unreal, magical experience," Alexander said. "It's turned what started out as a very sad event into reminding us that his memory is very much alive, and his music is very much alive for all of us."
Back in August, Alexander had written Seeger a letter seeking advice on nurturing her monthly acoustic Sacramento jam session, which has grown from five regulars to some 200 occasional participants. A self-described "jamvangelist," Alexander grew up with folk music regularly playing in her house, including Seeger's iconic tunes.
Alexander said she wrote the letter partially out of the sense that Seeger "would not be with us forever," but she did not necessarily expect a response. The letter she received on Tuesday was dated Saturday, two days before Seeger's death. He had responded to her by writing notes in the margin, advising her on how to attract more people to the jam group.
Since sharing the story on social media, Alexander said she has seen a voluminous outpouring of interest in the story. To her, that broad response is in keeping with Seeger's legacy, which extends beyond his role as an acclaimed songwriter and activist.
"Those are all deserving accolades and he was all of those things but he was first and foremost a song leader," Alexander said. "He was always encouraging everyone to sing along."
PHOTO: An image of the letter, with Seeger's handwriting visible in the margins, courtesy of Kim Alexander.