Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/metro/16037.php

9/11 impetus for citizenship for couple from Austria
Arizona Daily Star
March 31, 3004

Bonnie Henry
 
The dishes were not yet cleared away when the judge stepped to the podium and declared the hotel a U.S. District Court.
 
And with that, Manfred and Marlene Fodor became American citizens in the banquet room of the Arizona Inn - in the middle of a Rotary meeting.
 
"Where else but the United States could this happen?" Manfred would tell a packed house.
 
Where, indeed? Then again, it took an almost quirky confluence of people and events to pull the whole thing off, going back almost four decades.
 
It was 1966 when Manfred - 16 and sporting a Beatles mop top - stepped off the plane in Sacramento, Calif., as a foreign exchange student from Austria.
 
For a year, he lived with Bea and George Hendricks and their family. "It was a neighborhood where nobody locked their houses," says Manfred.
 
Even better, all those Wild West stories Manfred had read as a boy in his hometown of Vienna came to life when his host dad toured him around '49ers gold country.
 
After Manfred returned to Austria, he kept in touch with the Hendricks family, even as he graduated from medical school, set up a pediatric practice, and married fellow Austrian Marlene Schlueter in 1984.
 
In 1986, the Hendrickses moved to Tucson. The next year, Manfred and Marlene visited them.
 
"We loved it. We said, 'This is the place where we're going to retire,' " says Manfred.
 
Twice a year they returned to the American West, roaming from Texas to Tucson.
 
Not long before Bea died in 1990, Manfred and Marlene bought the Hendrickses' home. They rented it back to George until he moved out of state.
 
Tom Jones, a certified public accountant and member of Catalina Rotary, helped with the tax work on the house.
 
Jones and his wife, Marti, even visited Manfred and Marlene's Austrian home. So did George Hendricks, who died in 2002, and daughter Ann Beam.
 
"I consider Manfred a brother," says Beam, who attended the naturalization ceremony.
 
In 1995, lightning struck when, out of millions of applicants, Marlene won the green card lottery - and one of about 55,000 randomly selected visas issued by the United States each year.
 
Manfred and Marlene closed the practice and moved to Tucson, with neighbor Chuck Hinman and tax adviser Jones serving as sponsors. Jones also got Manfred to join Catalina Rotary.
 
And so, the couple from Austria happily settled into life in America. Then came 9/11.
 
Suddenly, citizenship took on a new urgency. "For me, it was how the nation came together," says Manfred.
 
"We love it here. We plan to die here," echoes Marlene.
 
Coincidentally, Tarik Sultan, an immigration lawyer, had joined Catalina Rotary in the summer of 2001. He offered to guide them through the process.
 
Both easily passed their tests - which include English-language and U.S. government questions.
 
"They both scored 100 percent," says Denise Bonk, adjudications officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Besides testing the couple, she also administered their oath of citizenship.
 
It was Catalina Rotary member Roger Radcliff who first suggested that the event take place during a Rotary meeting. But the March 19 ceremony also needed a U.S. District Court judge to order the citizenship - in this case, Frank R. Zapata. Zapata was recruited by Catalina Rotary member - and Pima County Superior Court Judge - Ted Borek.
 
Naturally, Manfred and Marlene are grateful to all.
 
Bonnie Henry's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach her at 434-4074 or at bhenry@azstarnet.com or write to 3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125, Tucson, AZ 85741.

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