Still beautiful 100 years later
Turning 100 years old is a milestone few people reach. Further turning 100 years old, living in the same house your parents built, working on the farm as your career and never marrying is unimaginable.
For one Conover woman, that life is reality.
Catherine Sigmon, who turns 100 today, is a Catawba County native. The house she and her 97-year-old sister, Grace Kincaid, occupy was built in 1924 on Conover land where the family previously had a log house. The Sigmons moved into the log house in 1912. Sigmon, along with her five siblings, were raised in the two houses. Besides Kincaid and Sigmon, the other siblings passed away in their late-90s, with the exception of one who died in his 70s. Their mother, Claudie Starnes Sigmon, lived to be 96, and their father, Theodore Sigmon, was 80 when he died.
Sigmon is surprised she's lived longer than anyone else in her immediate family.
"It makes me feel wonderful," she said. "I thought a lot about it, but didn't think I'd make it to 100."
Sigmon worked two years in a hosiery mill before resigning to work on the family farm. She picked and planted cotton, corn, milked cows and drove her father's tractor, among other things on the farm.
"My favorite part was picking cotton," said Sigmon, adding it was hard work, but an enjoyable activity during her farming years. "I had to like it. It was an everyday business."
One of the farming traditions for the Sigmon family was corn shucking and cotton picking events. Sigmon and Kincaid said their family, along with neighbors, held these events throughout the year for everyone to come together. In the past, as well as currently, it's not uncommon for Sigmon to receive visitors at the house, which is her social life.
In addition to the house raising all of the Sigmon children, it was also the location where Sigmon and Kincaid baby-sat children for about 30 years.
Aside from farming, baby-sitting and socializing, Sigmon's true love was quilting, which she started at age 14. She joined the quilting group at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, where she is a lifelong member.
Jeannette Gantt, of Conover and St. Peter's Lutheran secretary, always saw Sigmon at the quilting table in the church Monday mornings.
"She and her sister always worked at the same table," Gantt said. "One would stick the thread through and the other would tie the knots. (Sigmon) has made quilts in her home for years and given them out. She did a lot of service for the community that way."
The quilts Sigmon, along with the other group members, made were donated to area nursing homes, hospice, Salvation Army and Samaritan's Purse, among other non-profit organizations.
Aside from quilting, Sigmon made clothes for her mother and sisters, as well as for other people, and a variety of handmade dolls.
Now that Sigmon is in her older years, she doesn't do a lot of quilting, gardening or cooking, but every morning, she reads her Bible.
"She's read through the Bible a couple of times," Kincaid said.
Sigmon's faith, according to family and friends, is evident not only in her church life, but in her personal life, too.
"It's a very rare occasion that people live to be 100 years old and remain active into their late 90s," said Gantt, who has known Sigmon about 50 years. "Catherine is faithful in every way, not only to her church, but her family and extended family. She's just a wonderful person."
Pam Benfield, who is Sigmon's neighbor and has known the family about 40 years, said "the girls" are a "joy" in her life.
"For Catherine, anything is fine," Benfield said. "She won't complain or argue about anything. She'll just go with the flow."
Benfield said one of her fondest memories was driving Sigmon and Kincaid around town with her child sitting on her lap. The girls and Benfield visited different people or went for a drive to get ice cream. Neither Sigmon nor Kincaid have a driver's license.
"They would ask I know where I'm at, and I'd say, 'No,'" Benfield said, laughing. "Then they would say, 'Turn around and go back.'"
Benfield said she kept driving around until they found their way home.
"We always would just go visiting, going and doing," Benfield said. "We were traveling buddies. Anything and anywhere you go, Catherine can tell you something."
Besides being someone Benfield turns to for a good story, she said it's Sigmon's personality that brightens a room.
"Sigmon is quiet, kind and sees the good in everybody," Benfield said. "She never says anything bad about anyone. She finds good in everything. Catherine's got a beautiful heart and is a beautiful woman."
For Sigmon's 100th birthday, her family and friends will have a covered-dish lunch at St. Peter's Lutheran Church.
"I'm excited about the party," Sigmon said. "I just want to have a good time and don't want a thing (for a gift)."