Bay Area remembers SF's Warren Hellman

December 19, 2011 7:09:57 PM PST
The Bay Area is remembering a San Francisco political and cultural leader. Warren Hellman died over the weekend of leukemia. He will forever be remembered as the creator of the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival," the free music event in Golden Gate Park, but he did so much more.

It is his legacy: A weekend in Golden Gate Park, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Warren Hellman's gift

"Just to be able to maybe recreate a better Woodstock, to give hundreds of thousands of people pleasure for a few days," he once said.

There are a lot fewer people in Speedway Meadow these days. It is being renamed "Hellman Hollow" in his honor and the festival will continue.

"He made sure to have money set aside so that it would continue," publicist Tanya Pinkerton told ABC7.

Golden Gate Park was a favorite. He created the underground parking garage at the De Young Museum. He got involved in city politics and he started up the news service BayCitizen.org because he saw local coverage diminishing.

"He didn't take the easy road and if he felt passionate it was important to San Francisco and the citizens of San Francisco, then he was going to be there," Bay Citizen CEO Lisa Frazier said.

Frazier believes Hellman embodied the good in all of us. That is how Pinkerton feels too. When she was facing life-threatening illnesses, she and her husband went to a support center that Hellman funded.

"Something simple that could have such a rippling effect for so many other people. It really touched me a lot," she recalled.

"I really felt like there was some sort of special bond between us and I think I'm realizing that there were probably thousands of people who feel that way," musician Laurie Lewis said.

Bay Area bluegrass legend Laurie Lewis sings a song that was a Hellman favorite in a new film about bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, a film that Warren financed. Its lyrics seem appropriate today.

"I know he's waiting in a far distant land, a land that's over the sea," they go.

A service for Warren Hellman will be held on Wednesday.


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