Long Time Coming
|Caecilia Hansen reviews her citizenship documents before she signs her name, following the immigration interview.|
It was one of those celebrations you would expect to see in the movies. The setting was too perfect: quaint little cottage sitting near a river under a massive rock outcropping. The home was exactly as one would expect, cozy, small and neat with hand-painted art on the walls and homemade afghans covering the chairs.
The people who gathered were a mixture of friends and family, including the clergy and representatives from both local government and federal agencies. They dressed both formally and informally.
And the star of the show was incredible, a very young 92 year old, with wit and charm, and a smile as large as a sunflower. Sitting near a window, with oxygen helping her breathe, she is one of the most sincere and innocent women you could image.
The script, complete with a plot, was perfect, the seriousness of typical government bureaucracy, mixed with humor and one-liners that Jay Leno would die for.
Although the above description is beginning to sound like it was made for the movies, the wonderful truth is that it is not only real but it all played out in Helper last week.
The main character is Caecilia King Hansen, born May 21, 1910 in Menton U.D. England to Hubert Muskett and Gertrude Mina Linnell King. The setting is her little home in Helper where she has lived with her husband, Dick since 1955. The celebration was the presentation of naturalization for citizenship. The drama was the interview by Immigration Service officials in her living room. The plot was the discovery a couple years ago, that after all these years of thinking she was an American citizen, because her father had been naturalized, was not true and she was still an English citizen.Hansen has been a regular voter in America since she was 21 years old, never realizing that she was not a citizen.
Let's back the story up 90 years ago to 1912 when Caecilia first came to America aboard the Rochambeau ship to Ellis Island at age two. Later Caecilia and her mother returned to England but four years later, when she was six they came back to America on the Baltic ship and she ended up in Dunsmuir, Calif, which sits near Mount Shasta near the Oregon border in Northern California.
At about age nine, in 1919 or 1920, she was put in a private school in Woodland, Calif. Because of her exceptional reading she advanced to the third grade at Holy Rosary Academy. Caecilia graduated as president of her class with high honors on June 6, somewhere around 1927.
From there she entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross Academy and became a nun and completed her training to be a teacher for Notre Dame in Indiana. She spent 16 years teaching in Sacramento, Eureka, Los Angeles, and Fresno, Calif., Cairo, Illinois, Ogden, Utah and Nampa, Idaho. She had been a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross since August of 1935.
For the next 10 years Caecilia taught and lived the life of a sister. But in 1945 in a dispensation request Ms. King petitioned to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross that she leave. In her request she wrote, "I am leaving the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross because I feel that my parents need me..."
Her mother passed away in 1947 and Caecilia and her father lived together in Dunsmuir, Calif. until 1952 when they traveled to Helper with friends, Ralph and Lois Fossat.
|Allan Speirs conducts the official swearing in ceremony as Caecilia's husband Dick listens. |
She lived several places in those early years in Helper, the Recci apartments, the apartments behind the old Strand Theater, and west of Bryner Street. Later she met and married Marion Dick Hansen, who had three children from a previous marriage. In 1955 they were married in the Fossat home, Lois Fossat being Dick's sister.
Advancing the scene 45 years and the discovery that she was not a citizen, Caecilia, with the help of Joy Bera and Debra Riche, who were with the Southeast Association of Governments, began the quest to apply for citizenship.
Caecilia had been receiving assistance from the alternative nursing home program through the Southeast Association of Governments. Because of health issues they were inquiring about medicaid and discovered she was not eligible because she was not a citizen.
The first request for information was sent in January of 2001 and for the next 18 months it has been a series of requests for information, filing material, tracking down records and getting everything in order to complete the naturalization process.
The final process occurred on Wednesday, October 16. The actual questioning portion of the process was both serious and humorous as INS (Immigration Naturalization Service) officers Mark Titus and Allan Speirs conducted the final interview and swearing in session.
Questions like, "Have you had jail time? Have you been on welfare? Have you led an ethical lifestyle? Are you a spy? (her response was only on her husband as she grinned proudly at him). Are you a member of the communist party? And, have you signed any false documents or been part of any kidnapping or murders? The questions, although necessary and routine, seemed out of place as the 92-year former teacher and nun answered them one by one .
"I'd be in trouble with all these witnesses if I answered any of these questions wrong," she laughed, looking around at the government workers, priest, husband and nurses.
Another of the questions, are you part of any other monarchy? She cleverly responded not part of a monarchy, but I am a king." (Her maiden name).
The INS officer explained the clause about bearing arms and asked if she would be willing to defend and assist the country, should she be called on for help? Her response, "yes, but we would be in a lot of trouble if they depended on me, but I still have my cane and big toe, I could kick them!"
Then a test that followed the questions, Caecilia answered them like a school girl, easily telling the colors of the flag and what each stands for. She not only knew the number of stripes in the flag but proceeded to tell the group how many red ones and how many white ones. She was asked about the first president and the president that freed the slaves and the current president. The only question she missed was who the Utah Senator was and she thought hard, admitting, "Oh I knew that," when the answer Senator Hatch was revealed.
The final process was the truth of faith and the pledge of allegiance. She ended the ceremony with a touching rendition of God Bless America.
And her final words, "When do we get to eat!"
In attendance besides her husband Dick, were Joy Bera and Bill Howell, with the Southeast Association of Governments; Maughan Guymon, area agency on aging representative; Mark Titus and Allan Speirs with the immigration department; Sharon Garn, representative from Senator Hatch's office; Reverend Erik Richtsteig, Linda Beal, R. N., area manager of community nursing; and Sarah Lee Kemple, community nurse.
It was a long time coming but you can be sure that come election day next week Caecilia Hansen will be voting legally for the first time in her life. Living in the United States permanently since she was six years old, Caecilia is an American citizen at last, at 92 years old.