Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Relationship with her husband; his death and funeral

Sigmon describes her relationship with her husband and how she decided what role she would take in their relationship. The passage ends with a description of his death and funeral.

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:
During your marriage before he got sick, did you have any kind of rocky times, any disagreements or hard things like that?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
No, I just sort of let him have his way. That's just the way you're supposed to do things like that. Just go along with anything he wants to do, because he was sick; he felt bad all the time. Cancer must be a terrible, painful thing. Because my daughter said they had some patients there that would never leave the hospital.
JACQUELYN HALL:
During the earlier years before he got sick, was he pretty much the boss, and he pretty much made all the decisions?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes, I always felt like the man should be the boss. He looked after all the bills and everything, and now I've got all that to do. All the liability insurance and keeping up the car. My son keeps up my car, though. I mean if it's any mechanical work to be done or greasing or anything like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there things where you made the decisions?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Well, sometime.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things would that be?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I guess everybody talks over things before they make a decision. He had a pretty good head on him. He didn't go out further than he could reach.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to your independence and being used to having your own way?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I still sort of stuck up for my rights. [laughter] Because I had my two children, and I had to sort of go along with them. They were young, and they had a lot to do in the church and in school. And all of the good movies, naturally they wanted to go see them, and I'd take four or five of the children here in this neighborhood to the movies on Sunday evening. And things like that. They had a museum at Hickory—I don't know if they still have it or not—and they had this huge snake. [laughter] And they wanted to go see it. So I said, "All right. All of you come over. We'll go see it." So I took them to see it. And I'd take them swimming every Sunday, and I take my little grandsons. That's one reason they like to spend the summer with me, because I take them up to the swimming pool about one o'clock and let them stay till five. Now they enjoy that, and they meet so many kids. That's one thing. And if I want my yard mowed, I say, "Well, all right, you boys get the yard mowed and cleaned up [laughter], and I'll take you to the swimming pool." Oh, boy, you ought to see them get busy. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your husband mind you taking the children?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
No, he knew I was doing it for their own good. Because he liked to go fishing and hunting and things like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you and your husband do things together, or did you do things with your women friends?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I didn't go out with my women friends. If we went anywhere, we went together and took our children. After his feet got so bad, he didn't… He doctored them a lot, and they just kept getting worse and worse. And he'd sit around and soak his feet and rest and things like that. And then that cancer was working on him all those years. I'm sure that they had not diagnosed his case. Because they said John Wayne had cancer twelve year before they found out he had it. And he was in that War, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel like you could talk to your husband about anything that was on your mind?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes, I did. Yes, we'd sit and talk a lot of time. And you know, he even went as far as telling me that he wanted this funeral home in Newton to have his body, which Maiden, we knew them real well, too. And I know the one in Conover. He said he wanted Rex to have him, because he said he thought Rex did a real nice job. Boy, we give him a nice funeral, though, let me tell you. And we used a flag. They give all the veterans a flag, I guess. But he had bought this new suit before he got so bad sick. It was beautiful. And I put that on him. You know, when he died he had a smile on his face. That was unusual. And he just perked up. His jaws had got so big and puffed, but I guess the fluid they took out of him at the funeral home made him look more normal. But they said he just looked like he was asleep and he didn't have a pain in the world. Everybody said it, too. But he sure did look good to be sick so long. He looked sort of like he did when he was young; sort of, life had come back to him. And all of my friends were so nice to me. It was eighty people that brought food in this house. Now that is a lot of food. But everybody at the church just felt so close to me, and admired me for what I done for him so long.