Senior Spotlight: Ruth Brigham, pt 2

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Ruth Brigham (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune) 

In 1951, Harold and Ruth Brigham moved their young family from Washington D.C. to Cullman County. They would call Hanceville home and eventually have a third child, Tim. Once their children were old enough to attend school, Ruth would go to work as a teacher’s aide at Hanceville.  

The Brigham’s purchased a home on Blountsville Street in Hanceville. She lived on Blountsville Street for 52 years. Harold and Ruth had many great times and laughs. “My husband was always such a great teaser. He was the first one I had ever dated that liked my red hair and didn’t mind my freckles. He teased me constantly, but in a nice way, of course. One day he said, ‘Your green eyes tell me go, but your red hair tells me to stop.’ When he came in every evening from work, he would always tease me and ask if any of his blondes had called. I would always come back with some witty response,” she smiled.  

While attending the Old Union Church of Christ with the Moody family. She said, “I had heard a little bit about a nursing home that was going to be built. It was going to be different about how they were fed and cared for. It was going to be like family. You were a member of the family.” That nursing home is now Hanceville Nursing Home.  

Ruth continued, “My father came there as a resident after a wreck. I would go visit my father and I would help some to take care of him. After school was out, the Moody’s offered me a job and I went to work as an aide on main hall. My father was one of my residents. I worked there for two years and I entered Wallace Community College and their LPN program.”  

Harold was proud of Ruth and would call her his “55-year-old schoolgirl.” She worked and studied hard, and she recalled Harold helping her study for one particular test. She said, “The first test was medical terms. We’d go over them. He said, ‘How can I call them out when I can’t even say them?’ I said, ‘Well, just try.’ I made a 100 on that test and I asked my instructors if I can take that home and show my husband and I did and am so glad. I had started in September and in October, he had a massive heart attack and did not survive.”  

She continued, “I was just stunned. Since we had married, he had had an amputation. The veterans had fitted him with a leg, and he had gone back to work and was just doing so great. He was just such a wonderful husband and father. We had been married 32 years-not nearly long enough.” 

Although it was difficult for Ruth, through encouragement from her instructors at Wallace, she finished school. She had intended to return to the nursing home as an LPN but after one rotation, her plan changed. She explained, “During the rotation, I had worked at the old Cullman Medical Center with the newborns. I fell in love with that also. They are like the elderly. Each has needs unto themselves.”  

She was offered a job at Cullman Medical Center with the newborns where she would work until she was 70 years old. She and Harold were very active in the city of Hanceville. She wrote in 2019, “I was a Scout leader for the Juniors. My husband and I worked to found the local Lions Club. The volunteer fire department held meetings in my home. I worked with the PTO and I was a homeroom mother for 18 years. I taught Sunday School at Northside in Hanceville. My husband and I worked on committees to bring Wallace State Community College here to Hanceville. My husband was on the City Council…so things that involved him also involved me.” 

After the death of her husband, Ruth spent her spare time talking sports with her sister Bonnie. She said, “She is living in heaven now. I had four brothers and one sister, Bonnie. We were 22 months apart. She was the beauty of the family-a little blond hair blueeyed. Her husband graduated from Auburn and I have always been an Alabama fan. Before football season started and got really going, I would go over to Warehouse Discount early in the morning when they put the papers out. I’d get the paper with all the big line-up of every game that was to be played. I would go over it and I would call her, and I would tell her all these games. Some were Wisconsin.” She laughed, “We loved football and we would decide which games we were going to watch that day. Then we would get back on the phone and we coached.”  

Bonnie always wanted Ruth to pull for Auburn. Ruth agreed to pull for them as long as they weren’t playing against her Alabama Crimson Tide. “We were so close, and our brothers, we were a close family. That helped during the depression. That closeness and that love-nothing can affect you if you have the love of a strong family and your faith. You can get through anything. I would like young people to know, there have been bad times before and this country has come through it and been stronger for it. I believe we can come through this and gain much from it.”  

In recent years, Ruth has enjoyed hearing from her church family at Baldwin Church of Christ. She said, “Five different people have been calling me at 9:30 and reading to me because I can no longer see to read. I see well enough to get to the coffee pot, but I cannot read anymore. They read different parts of the Bible. Sometimes it will be Psalms or Ecclesiastes. It’s wonderful and such a thoughtful thing for a church to do.”  

Ruth also enjoys her time at Hanceville Nursing and Rehab and those who care for her. One individual, Crystal Anglada, is a particular favorite. She said of Anglada, “Everyone who works here is welltrained and they work hard. She’s welltrained and has something in addition. She has that care in her to know how to care for the elderly. I see so many kindnesses from her every day. She is quite a wonderful friend.”  

In 2019, as the reigning Ms. Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center (HNRC), Ruth was selected as a top 10 finalist for Ms. Alabama Nursing Homes. In a questionnaire for the state pageant, Ruth wrote about HNRC, “I have done things here I never thought I would be able to do.” She added, “One of my favorite things about living here is the way we all root and cheer for each other. We have fun and get to know each other, it’s like one big family.” Just as the Moody’s had envisioned. 

“I have been blessed with three children, two sons and a daughter. I have three children and three grandchildren. You may wonder how we made it during war times and awful hard times when money was so scarce. You know, there was no social, movies and things were unheard of and we couldn’t have afforded that. Our entertainment was around the home, the school and the church. In the summertime and on the Fourth of July would be so great. We would have homemade ice cream and one year, we decorated a Maypole. We would have ballgames and pitch horseshoes and so all the oldfashioned things. We got through it. I heard my family speak of the great Spanish epidemic. We had a polio epidemic and I had friends who had polio and were crippled. We had other scares-a brief scare of smallpox which turned out to be something else, but we were vaccinated for that. I remember the whole family going to the Hanceville school and being vaccinated for polio. I have three children that have been so wonderful to me in spite of myself.”  

 During the pandemic, the family has been able to visit Ruth at her window or through plexiglass. Now, they are able to visit her in her room. She said, “It was so wonderful to have my family come and sit where you are, facetoface. I don’t see them clearly, but I know they are there. Life is good and I am happy. I have been so blessed to have the family I did and the family I do. And, to have met that wonderful yankee! What a wonderful husband and father a veteran is and can be. They have seen the worst and they appreciate their families.”  

 ** There will be a video of The Tribune’s interview with Ruth Brigham with additional stories not included in the articles. Look for excerpts from the interview soon.  

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com