Alberta Chloe Sigley Jackson—A Bit of Family History
My mother, Alberta nicknamed Bert, was born in 1910. She would have been 109 in this year, 2019, had she lived. Every year around Mother’s Day, my mind drifts to her gentle soul because she was always doing good things for others. Her nature was to think of others first, to help others even at her own self-sacrificial expense, instead of herself. She was the most selfless woman I’ve ever known.
The things Mom told me about her childhood, made me aware she’d experienced great poverty during her childhood which gave her deep compassion for needy souls. She said the Salvation Army fed her family at Thanksgiving and Christmas when she was a child. At other times, a meal might simply be a crust of bread, or nothing at all. Evidently her mother Grandma Helena, my mother and her five siblings became destitute when Grandpa (William) Sigley left to work in a Pittsburgh steel mill hundreds of miles away from their Kansas home.
During WWI, when supplying steel to the shipyards and to the government for military tanks was a priority, the steel mills worked full bore. The way my Mom told the story, the workers were paid, but Grandpa Sigley's paychecks rarely found their way home. After working hard in those grimy, steamy, steel mills, he went to the pub where grub and companionship eased loneliness.
The Salvation Army found him in the pub and cleaned him up. Once cleaned up and thoroughly saved, Grandpa returned home to his family. He probably brought with him the brass instrument he'd acquired courtesy of the Salvation Army. He applied at the local high school to be their bandmaster and was accepted.
In those years, he taught my Mom and many of her siblings to play the violin, marimba which is a form of xylophone, and also the glockenspiel, the trombone, trumpet, and the piano. He enlisted his own children in the band. Throughout the remainder of Grandpa’s life, he became a good provider, even if the Depression years were very tough for them.
Most of the stories Mom told were about her father, but she also indicated her mother was a devout Roman Catholic woman who bore six children. With her husband gone to the steel mills, she supported her family as a maid-of-all work, cooking, baking, and cleaning for well-to-do families. When the best she could do was to bring home crusts cut from the tea time sandwiches of her employer for her children to eat, she never had the where-with-all to teach her daughters to cook or bake.
Evidently her sons went to work early in their teens. Her eldest, my Uncle Herbert, who was six feet tall, went to work for the Santa Fe railroad. Another son, Merville, nicknamed “Shorty”, for his five foot fully-grown stature, went to work for the same railroad as a station master and telegrapher. Two other Sigley sons were William O. and Aaron. Grandma Sigley’s petite, musically gifted daughter Helen married my Merle Jackson. She’s written a family history titled, “Backtracking LaBelle Years”, so I won’t repeat any of it here. Aunt Helen introduced her sister, Alberta, to Merle’s brother Wilfred. The two young people fell in love at first sight and married in 1936.
During my childhood, my Mom, Alberta, went to great lengths to give back what she had been given by reaching out to others through the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations. I can remember her sitting up to all hours to clean, polish, and lace up shoes she had collected for the needy. She mended everything she gave away to them and sent money from selling Avon products to charities, our church and other organizations. Mom was a true gem of a woman, all five feet nothing and 120 pounds in her old age, but she'd been a slip of a woman when she was young. Pictures of her like the one here show a rather comely young woman with whom my father had fallen head over heels in love.
One more memory serves to keep me looking forward to seeing her again in eternity. When Mom was dying from the ravages of cancer before a coma claimed her in those final days, as I sat beside her, she suddenly sat up, hugged the air, and exclaimed in her clear, sweet voice, "JESUS"! With that she fell back on her pillow never to awaken again. Her heart gave up three days later. We buried her in 1984 over yonder in the Venus, PA, cemetery. The love of her life, my Dad, Wilfred, joined her there in 1990, after his heart gave out, and their only son, my brother, Ronald is now over there, too, after early onset dementia claimed him. My husband is there as well awaiting the resurrection away. Sorry, if this has become maudlin. I am feeling a bit weepy as I remember them, but I'm also rejoicing because I know whose I am, and whose they were, that is, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I know where they are, Heaven.