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20 achieve their goal at citizenship `happening'

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Douglas Johnson receives the flag of his new country with help from his son, Anthony Johnson, during the ceremony.

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When Dragomir Jovanovik was born in Belgrade in April, 1903, Belgrade was the capital of the former nation of Serbia, the Wright brothers were working on launching the first airplane flight, and Vladimir Lenin was about to found the Bolshevik Party in Russia.

A lot has changed since then, including Mr. Jovanovik's name.

When Mr. Jovanovik came to the United States in 1989, he changed his name to Douglas Johnson so it would be easier for Americans to pronounce.

Yesterday, at age 98, Mr. Johnson made another change in his life.

He officially became an American citizen during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse on Spielbusch Avenue.

“It is a great happening,” he said.

Mr. Johnson, who worked as an industrial engineer before retirement, now lives in West Toledo with his son, Anthony Johnson.

“I have been proud of my father my whole life, and I am proud now,” the younger Mr. Johnson said.

Sylvester Mullings, formerly of Jamaica, is another Toledo resident who took the citizenship oath. He has lived in the United States for 10 years, and said becoming a citizen has been a goal for a long time.

“It's a long journey, but it's come to an end.”

Mr. Mullings, who works in the computer wiring business, said earning his citizenship was just one of his ambitions, and now he is ready to achieve more of his dreams.

“You want to be somebody - looking up more and more every day,” he said.

In all, 20 people from 13 countries were sworn in at the ceremony, presided over by Judge John W. Potter.

Judge Potter told the new Americans about his father, who emigrated to the United States from England.

“Like you, he looked upon America as a land of freedom and opportunity,” Judge Potter said. “It is my wish that you, all of you, will experience the same benefits and opportunities of this free society.”

Along with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mullings, the following also took the citizenship oath:

  • Aida Youssef Said Bazzi, formerly of Lebanon.

  • Vipan Kumar Bhalls, formerly of Canada.

  • Asif Saleem Bhatti, formerly of Pakistan.

  • Saul Chavez, Sandra Nohemi Nino, Elivia Rivera, and Agustin Villegas, formerly of Mexico.

  • Sunila Bala Das, formerly of Bangladesh.

  • Pauline Margery Gwendoline Jefts, formerly of the United Kingdom.

  • Ola Hassan Abdel Khaliq and Eman Ahmed Al Syoof, formerly of Jordan.

  • T. Srinivasan Ragu-Nathan, Atul Vadilal Shah, and Suneeta Ajul Shah, formerly of India.

  • Huong Thu Thi Nguyen and Julie Vu, formerly of Vietnam.

  • Sun Tok Prieur, formerly of South Korea.

  • Khaykeo Sengdalaphet, formerly of Laos

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