Helen Sigelman died Wednesday, July 25, at Windemere, her home for the last several years of her life on Martha’s Vineyard. She was 87.
Helen was born and raised in Worcester, in a family of four girls and two boys. Hard work and World War II marked her life. After her father left the family, her mother, Elizabeth Friedman, a sales clerk in one of Worcester’s largest downtown department stores, raised all six children on her own, with the assistance of her brother Stanley.
At the age of 19, Helen joined the war effort and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a clerk in the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department. A treasured photo album contains snapshots of another era that show a young woman in uniform seated with friends, also in uniform, in nightclubs such as The Lotus and The Tradewinds. A formal photo of a unit of men in uniform from the Arlington Hall Signal Corp carried the inscription, “Fellows, I worked with when the war was on.”
In 1946, she returned to Worcester and married Sheldon “Sonny” Sigelman, who had recently returned from Navy service in the Pacific where he was a radioman, first on aircraft rescue patrol boats and later on an aircraft carrier. The couple moved to Boston, where Mr. Sigelman was a partner in a small auto repair business. In December 1950, Helen gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.
The couple’s mobility resembled the path of many postwar couples. They lived in subsidized housing in the Franklin Field projects. Later they moved to a three-decker apartment in Dorchester and then to a single-family, ranch-style house in Hyde Park. Helen went to work for Lechmere Sales, one of the pioneer discount department stores of that time, first at the Cambridge flagship location and then in Dedham. She rose steadily through the ranks to become manager of the housewares department, an achievement that gave her great pride. Helen and Sonny later divorced, but they maintained a caring relationship all their lives.
She later remarried. The marriage and a move to Belmont and a new home were brief, and she returned to her house in Hyde Park, where she lived until she moved to elderly housing in Dedham.
Helen spent her last years at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, surrounded by loving and caring people. She will be buried in Worcester Hebrew Cemetery in Auburn, next to Sonny. Services will be private.
She leaves a son, Nelson Sigelman, managing editor of The Martha’s Vineyard Times, and his wife, Norma, and their daughter, Marlan Breana Sigelman, of Vineyard Haven; and a daughter, Marlene Sigelman of Nederland, Colorado. Donations in her memory may be made to the Windemere Recreation Fund, PO Box 1747, Oak Bluffs MA 02557.