She sat in a wheelchair at the far end of the auditorium and stretched her long arm as high as she could.
Shardaben Chimanlal Vyas, 86, of India smiled broadly, but her soft voice sounded tired as she repeated the oath of citizenship along with 57 other people who were officially becoming United States citizens.
As each person was called to the front of the auditorium to pick up the certificate of citizenship, Ms. Vyas watched with such intensity, it seemed she was trying to etch every moment of Thursday's naturalization ceremony into her memory.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more photos from the ceremony
Ms. Vyas, a Toledo resident, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and realizes those memories might be lost to her forever, perhaps in one hour, or if lucky, she'll be able to cherish them for a couple more days.
“We just take it day by day,” said Ms. Vyas, who speaks in Gujaiabi, an Indian dialect that her son, Mahendra Vyas, 66, interprets. “It feels good to be a U.S. citizen.”
Thursday's naturalization ceremony was held at the Toledo Zoo’s indoor theater of its Museum of Science Building.
The other 57 new citizens were seated at the front of the auditorium and had to walk up to the stage to pick up their certificates. U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary, who presided over the ceremony, presented Ms. Vyas with her citizenship certificate at the back of the auditorium where she was seated in her wheelchair. He was joined by several other court officials and well-wishers.
Mr. Vyas and his wife, Anila, 66, initially came to the United States on business and study visas. His mother would visit occasionally but she and her husband weren’t interested in moving to America at the time. They had spent their entire lives in India, she said.
Mr. Vyas said after his father died in 2004, he brought his mother to Toledo to live with him. At that point she wanted to be with family, he said. It was important for her to become a citizen because visas have to be renewed, and he didn’t want his elderly mother traveling back and forth.
Ms. Vyas began showing signs of Alzheimer’s in 2012 and his mother’s condition has progressively gotten worse, Mr. Vyas said. The goal was to get her through the citizenship process while she was still capable.
“She’s all right today,” said Mr. Vyas as he turned to look at his mother smiling and waving her tiny American flag. “It’s a happy day for all of us.”
The new Americans and their native countries are:
Burkina Faso: Wendinda Roland Zongo
Cameroon: Valery Asangbe Kaba
Canada: Mile Brujic, Leah Iagulli, Idris Muhammad
Colombia: Henry Choconta
Cote D’Ivoire: Rokya Toure Miller
Eritrea: Hana Tesfamichael
Germany: Erika Gudrun Ehler, Beatrice Martina Guenther
Ghana: Henry Omari Ameyaw
India: Sweta Andrews, Tanuja Ashok Gandhi, Harminder Kaur, Mayur Bharat Patel, Shardaben Chimanlal Vyas
Jamaica: Marlene Marcia Chybar
Jordan: Amal Fares Abufares, Malak El Sabke Lenhart, Suhair Tayseer Mansour
Laos: Thang Darapheth
Lebanon: Chafica Chafic El Khechen, Abbas Moussa Khreis, Rana Mahmoud Rahal
Mexico: Ma. De La Luz Bedolla, Heriberto Chavez, Veronica Sierra De Arroyo, Alfonso De Loera, Jorge Ignacio Gabriel, Hector Javier Garza, Sr., Rafael Sanzon Loza, Maria Guadalupe Martinez, Cipriano Palacios, Maria Gloria Sanzon, Blanca Vargas
Morocco: Mustapha Addouz
Nicaragua: Christhiam Munoz
Nigeria: Mfon-Obong James Etim
Pakistan: Asif Abdullah, Mirza Ammar Ahmed, Jamila Noor Khokhar, Omer Iqbal Minhas
People’s Republic of China: Rongbi Duan, Kai Hai Lian, Yu Feng Lin, Qin Shao, Ming Ying Tang
Philippines: Mary Grace Pancobila Smith
Saudi Arabia: Laila Fouad Alam
South Korea: Sung David Chun, Won Eirene Han
Taiwan: A Chung Lu
Thailand: Chonnikan Juntura
Turkey: David Siddik Chief, Naz Nazife Chief
United Kingdom: William Joseph Berry, Stuart James Roderick Graham
Vietnam: Tam Thai Le
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.