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9/11 impetus for citizenship for couple from Austria
Arizona Daily Star
March 31, 3004
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
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
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
"We loved it. We said, 'This is the place where we're going to retire,' " says
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
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
And so, the couple from Austria happily settled into life in America. Then came
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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125,
Tucson, AZ 85741.