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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023

Time well spent with Joanne Sigler


Reflections of a life well lived

I knew when I sat down to have lunch with Joanne Sigler that I was in for quite an adventure – there would be lots of stories from the good old days, lots of laughter and lots of words I couldn’t put in print. We grabbed a table in the back of Biscotti’s and immediately started getting caught up. I have known Joanne my whole life, as I was part of the “Agnew” family with her two daughters, Liz and Anne. Back then, she was Joanne Whittington. When Liz and Anne were 7 and 9, respectively, their father (Ben Whittington) passed away, and Joanne would be a single mother – until she met Orvis Sigler, whose wife – and high school sweetheart – had died after 25 years of marriage.

“Do you know what color the blossom is before it becomes a cotton boll?” Joanne asks me. “It’s pink. I learned everything I know about farming from my first husband. And I learned everything I know about athletics from Orvis.”

Well, if you wanted to know anything about athletics, that’s who would know. Orvis Sigler, one of the most beloved sports figures in Shreveport (and one of the most decorated sports individuals in Northwest Louisiana history), served as both basketball coach and athletics director at Centenary College. He was also one of the founders of the Independence Bowl, for which he served as chairman in 1991 and 1992.

So, Joanne learned a lot about athletics in her 46 years of marriage to Orvis Sigler. And she taught him a thing or two.

One day, Orvis said he couldn’t find anyone to play golf with. So Joanne said, “I’ll walk with you.”

Little did Orvis know, Joanne had secretly been taking golf lessons at Querbes.

“We got to one of the short holes,” recalls Joanne, “and I said, ‘Let me see if I can hit the ball.’ I made a hole-in-one. He never asked me to go again.”

Everywhere else, they would be together.

And everything Joanne became involved in – and there were lots of things – she made sure it didn’t infringe on her time with Orvis.

She has served on the board of many organizations, including The Strand Theater – where, as a child, she would ride the trolley to watch “the children’s picture shows.” The same place where, in the upstairs bathroom many years ago, she took the first drag of a cigarette.

She served in many capacities at St. Mark’s Cathedral, including on the vestry and as the first woman usher.

“Oh, I’ve been on lots of boards,” says Joanne. “But I never wanted to be president or an officer.”

Why? Because it would take up too much of her time with Orvis.

What she is perhaps best known for is the column “Remember When” that she wrote for “The (Shreveport) Times.”

“I don’t really know,” she says when I ask her how she started writing. “When I was growing up, my mother was always singing and making up rhymes. I was an English teacher, and I always liked to write and make up stuff.”

When she wrote about the celebration of a holiday for the daily newspaper, she got so many compliments that it became a weekly column – about growing up in Shreveport and all its historic places.

Joanne would write the column, but there was a catch. She didn’t want to be paid for it, and she didn’t want to be obligated to do it – that might cut into her time with Orvis, who passed away in 2016.

“I didn’t want to be on a deadline,” says Joanne. “They knew I’d have it for them on Wednesday.”

So, for seven and a half years, “Remember When” ran every Wednesday.

“I haven’t written that since 2016,” she says. “But I still have people who walk up to me and say, ‘You don’t know me, but I miss your articles.’”

She is a writer, painter, author (she has written a book called “Sharing Favorite Things” that includes some of her artwork), mother, teacher, wife and storyteller. “I’m always busy doing something,” she says. “Even if it’s wrong, I’m gonna do it.”

At age 90, Joanne Sigler is still busy. Liz and her husband live in Tyler, while Anne and her family are in Shreveport. She’s “DoDo” to her grandchildren (she wanted to be called “JoJo” like she was called at Centenary, but it was mispronounced).

“I go to these funerals now, and I think, ‘What the hell are they going to say about me?’” she says.

Oh, there’ll be plenty of things to say.

Follow Harriet Penrod at the Shreveport-Bossier Journal at www. shreveportbossierjournal.com. Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com.


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