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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Clinton Sigmon suffered from his war wounds for the rest of his life

After his wartime service, Sigmon's husband suffered from health ailments. Eventually, he died of cancer. Sigmon describes his death and the strength and support she received from other widows.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your husband like?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Well, he was a mechanic. He was a genius.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A genius?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes: And after he got back from service, he went to work for the State Highway Department. He was head mechanic. Oh, he was one of the best. Everybody said he really was a good mechanic. But the poor old thing come down with… He had some feet problem. His feet were sort of frozen when he was in the War. Wearing those old boots so long, and when he'd pull them off, the blood and hide and everything would come off(). Oh, he had a lot of trouble with his feet. And the older he got, the worse they'd get. So they retired him, and then they found out he had cancer. And he was sick five year. And I waited on that man. After they found out he had cancer, he was in and out of the Veterans Hospital at Oteen. Well, he was an outpatient for a long time before they found out he had cancer. And so he didn't want to stay in the hospital; he wanted to stay at home. Well, I kept him at home, and I waited on him. He had two major operations, one on this side and one on that side. It was in the lymph glands. And he had a tumor under his tongue. They took that out and the lower jawbone, his teeth. They had to do all that in order to get to all those glands that that thing travelled in. And I had to fix his food just like you do a baby's. But I waited on that man just like if he was a little helpless child. And on Monday, he and his sister and me… They were awfully good to me, especially that one; she lost a boy in service. And she was so depressed and everything. She was so good to my husband, her brother. And she and me would take him to Oteen when he'd have to go in for a checkup and everything. And so we had took him up there on Monday, and they had put him through the lab and everything, and they told him to go home and take it easy, that they had done all they could do for him. Well, we knew that he was getting to the last stages, because he had such a dark color, and he was just weakening away. If he'd get up, a lot of times he'd fall, lose his balance. So I'd walk up to him and help him walk. And one time he got down in the bathroom one night. It was about two o'clock. He had lost his balance when he started to get up. And so I helped him get back to bed, because I knew if he lay on the floor it might take him till Monday(), as weak as he was. But honest to goodness, that man was as poor as he could be. Right in here, you could stick your fist in there in those places, and he was a big-boned man. He was a well-built man. He was tall, and he had the biggest body, and you could count every bone in his back, all of his ribs. He was just plumb pitiful. But I sure waited on him. And then on Friday morning, he died. He said he felt so bad he couldn't sit up, but I guess that it had just got him. But on Tuesday night after we'd taken him up to the hospital, I know he had a light heart attack. I had a couch over there for him to lay on a lot. And he took a smothering spell during the night. And they had give him some medicine for his heart, and I didn't know he had heart trouble. And Susan—my daughter, that's head nurse at Charlotte—looked at his medicine that they give him, and she said, "Mother, did you know Daddy had heart trouble?" And I said, "No, Susan. He didn't tell me." She said, "Well, he's got heart trouble, because he's got a prescription here for heart medicine." And they was giving him the cancer drugs in a capsule. But he sure did suffer, I'm telling you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he realize that he was about to die?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, he had told me that he wasn't going to live long, and on Friday morning his back hurt him so bad he said, "Every bone in it feels like it's going to come out."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was he afraid of dying, or was he ready to die …
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
He wished he could die. He wished he could die and get out of the misery.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get through all that?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I don't know. And my friend had a husband that had a tumor on his brain. A very fine fellow. And she has three grown boys. And her husband went to the same hospital my daughter works. In fact, she was head nurse on the same floor that he was on. And he had a tumor on his brain, and it was malignant. And she told me one weekend she was home. She said, "Mother, don't tell nobody, but Aunt Molly's (she called her "Aunt Molly," because we just grew up together and everything) husband has got cancer of the brain. They operated, but he'll probably lose his mind." But he was just like my husband; he'd fall. She had her hands full, too. We're still good friends. We go places together. I said, "Didn't you feel like giving up sometimes? Or did you feel like that you might go first?" She said, "I absolutely did." I said, "I often made remarks to Susan that if her Daddy didn't, if something didn't soon help() here, that I was going to go before him." My body was in a strain. But I toughed it out. But he told me a couple weeks before he died that he knew he wasn't going to live long, and that he wanted me to look after these little grandsons. Anytime they wanted to come here, for me to go after them, and to be good to them, because he said, "Nell, they're small, and they can't help theirself now. But you'll be rewarded for it." And I did. If they need any new clothes and I see they need them, I'll go buy them for them. Now when they get grown and everything, they won't need my help.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He felt like these grandsons would take care of you then, when you were older.
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes.