Meet Waterloo’s newest American - Republic-Times | News

Meet Waterloo’s newest American

By on October 10, 2012 at 9:33 am

The Berkerey family in their Waterloo home. Pictured, from left, are daughter Josie, 4; Martin, holding his naturalization papers; his wife Laura and son Luke, 8, who celebrated his birthday Saturday. (Alan Dooley photo)

For many of our newest Americans, only three words are necessary to become U.S. citizens: “It’s a boy,” or “It’s a girl.”

But the journey to citizenship for a person born of foreign parents overseas is considerably longer and arduous.

Martin Berkerey is Waterloo’s newest American citizen by that route, accomplishing this on Thursday in Edwardsville under the auspices of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Martin was born of English parents in London. Today, he is employed by the Oracle software corporation in St. Louis, where he sells business software in a four-state region including Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

He came to the U.S. in 2002, to work for another software company.  He was assigned to Indianapolis, Ind., and it was there he met his future wife, Laura.

“The other alternative for my first job was New York,” Martin said.  “I am grateful that I was sent to Indianapolis. It would have been much harder to start in a giant city like New York.”

The warmth and congeniality of Midwesterners quickly attracted Martin and set him on the course that led him to American citizenship, he said.

“People would strike up a conversation in a store, on a bus, wherever you were,” he said.

English people, on the other hand, are much more reserved.  You may ride for an hour on a train and never exchange a word with the person sitting next to you, he said to illustrate a basic difference.  “Americans were generally warm, welcoming and friendly,” he said. “I quickly realized I wanted to be an integral part of such a country.”

Martin followed several steps to citizenship. First, he had to meet several requirements — including lawful permanent resident status and a thorough knowledge of U.S. history and civics, as well as an ability  to read and write English.

He studied for an oral interview, with much attention focused on a 100-question test. After submitting a detailed application, a big day came finally when Martin went to an interview in St. Louis.

There, an immigration officer reviewed documents and his application. Finally, there was an oral test on history and civics, drawn from the 100 study questions. Ten questions were asked, with a passing score of six correct answers. Finally, Martin had to confirm his ability to read and write English.

“Passing the interview was a great relief and step toward my goal,” he affirmed.

With 99 others from around the world, he raised his right hand and swore an oath of allegiance to the U.S. before Chief Justice of the Illinois Southern District, Judge David Herndon.

“And then I was a U.S. citizen,” Martin exclaimed.

On Saturday, Martin shared a dream he had held since his youth in England.

“My parents took me to the seashore often,” he told. “And there, I frequently rode a pony on the sandy shore. I thought how absolutely wonderful it would be someday to own and ride my own horse. And here, today I do.”

Martin’s father-in-law is an equine veterinarian, who now owns and cares for several horses on a 200-acre farm west of Waterloo.

“We ride on trails in the area as often as we can,” he shared.

Today, Martin and his wife, Laura, have two children – Luke, 8, and Josie, 4.  All of them share his love for horses and riding.

He is also a fan of golf, St. Louis Cardinals baseball and American football.

“One thing I especially like about American sports in contrast to those in Britain,” he said, “is that here, they play until someone wins. There, they often play a lengthy contest, such as in soccer, and it ends in a nil-nil draw.”

Martin still has a love for his old country of England, where he has two children and two grandchildren from a previous marriage.

“But this is my home – and I love it,” he said with an infectious smile on his face.

Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.