Montreal

Oscar Peterson's widow thrilled by push to rename Lionel-Groulx Metro after jazz legend

The petition to call it Oscar Peterson station has garnered more than 16,000 signatures, but both Montreal and the STM have said renaming a Metro station is complicated and unlikely to happen.

Petition to call it Oscar Peterson station has over 16,000 signatures, but name change is unlikely, says city

The late Oscar Peterson, seen here with his wife, Kelly Peterson, died in 2008. (Submitted by Kelly Peterson)

The widow of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson says she is heartened by a petition calling for Montreal to rename a Metro station in his honour.

Kelly Peterson told The Canadian Press that as trustee of the late musician's estate, she's always looking for ways to further his legacy and welcomes the effort by a Montreal man to see her late husband recognized.

A petition launched last week by Naveed Hussain calling on the city to rename Lionel-Groulx Metro station after Peterson, who grew up in the nearby Little Burgundy neighbourhood, has been gaining traction, so far garnering more than 16,000 signatures.

"I love the idea of Oscar being honoured," Peterson said Thursday. "It always really warms my heart and thrills me to see him being remembered."

"To have so many people in the neighbourhood in which he grew up wanting to honour him and remember him that way is really overwhelming."

However, the City of Montreal and its transit agency, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), have said that renaming a Metro station is complicated and not likely to happen.

An STM spokesperson said stations are typically named after the streets they exit onto or nearby landmarks.The STM has only ever made five name changes since the Metro opened in 1966, and it's had a moratorium on name changes since 2006.

A previous grassroots attempt to rename Lionel-Groulx station for Peterson in 2008, shortly after the musician's death, did not succeed.

This mural at the corner of Saint-Jacques and Des Seigneurs streets honouring Oscar Peterson was unveiled in 2011. (CBC)

In Montreal, a concert hall at Concordia University bears Peterson's name, as does a park not far from Lionel-Groulx station. There's also a mural across from the green space in Little Burgundy near the Metro station, inaugurated in 2010.

A city spokesperson indicated this week officials would be open to finding a different way of honouring the jazz legend whose career spanned more than 60 years.

Just last year, the city honoured Peterson's late sister, Daisy Peterson-Sweeney, an accomplished music teacher, by naming a park in the neighbourhood for her.

"I would be delighted and thrilled and honoured if the city wanted to do something to honour Oscar even more," Peterson said.

"It's not something I ever expect from anyone — I  don't just mean Montreal — Oscar was always humbled by every honour he received, and I feel the same way."

Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson, who appeared on The Wayne & Shuster Hour in 1964, won eight Grammy Awards over his illustrious career. (CBC)

Kelly Peterson, who lives in southern Ontario, said it's not for her to get involved in Montreal city politics or change its policies.

"I don't live there. I don't feel I have the right to get involved in something that has an impact on the residents, and I'm not one of them," she said. "But the honour? Absolutely, I love it."

Oscar Peterson does have schools named for him in the Ontario communities of Mississauga and Stouffville, as well as a small square in Toronto's financial district.

Kelly Peterson's focus has been on promoting her late husband's musical legacy — the songs that he recorded and played, but more recently, those he composed himself, so that people can see a more complete version of Oscar Peterson.

"People play Bach. People play Beethoven. I want people to play Oscar Peterson," she said. "I've always felt that his music will outlive all of us: people will be listening to Oscar's music 100 years from now, so it would be nice if there are other things that represent him, as well."

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