Italian immigrant became citizen

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


On Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1964, Phillip Reed, of R.R. No. 2 of Washington, became an American citizen at the U.S. District Court in Davenport.

?Of all the places I could have ended up I ended up here,? Phil said.

The headline in the local paper read ?Immigrants become citizens? with a subheadline of ?Ceremonies mark new era for 42.?

He was one of 42 people, including eight other children who went through the process.

?We had to wait a year before he became a U.S. citizen,? his mother Marcella Reed said. ?Immigration came to see what we had at the house and all over the farm. All the machinery was marked down. They went through everything including the grain mills.?

Phil was born in 1959 in Novara, Italy, and was at an orphanage until he came to the United States. When asked if he knew how he ended up at the orphanage Phil replied no.

?They don?t tell you much of those things,? Marcella said. ?They didn?t want you to know about it. They tell you stuff now, but they didn?t at that time. You didn?t get much information.?

On his birth certificate from Italy, the place where his mother?s and father?s names are supposed to be is blank and crossed out.

When he first came to live in Washington with his family he didn?t speak any English. He said he doesn?t remember that, because he was so young.

?There was a couple in town ? they were from Italy, too,? Marcella said. ?We went there a couple of times for you to get that Italian language. We finally just dropped it, because we couldn?t be running back and forth all the time. They lived in town and we wanted you to talk English.?

Marcella said she found out about Phil through Catholic Charities, which was in Davenport at the time. Her late husband, Eugene, and she adopted three other children through Catholic Charities.

?We decided we couldn?t have of our own, so we decided we were going to adopt,? Marcella said.

She kept all of Phil?s paperwork from Italy and while he was becoming a U.S. citizen, including his naturalization certificate and hospital bracelet after, and eventually passed it on to him.

The day Phil became a citizen, a picture was taken and published in the paper of Phil waving an American flag he was given at the ceremony, which he still has today.

In 1997, Phil traveled back to Novara to visit a foreign exchange student who lived with him for two years.

?We went to Milan,? Phil said. ?Novara is not that far from Milan, so when we came back I wanted to stop there and see if I could find anything ? the buildings and that.?

The orphanage had been torn down, but the church connected to the orphanage was still there, he said. A hospital was built around the church.

?When we were trying to find the church we had difficulties getting people to understand what we were looking for,? Phil added. ?Then finally we figured out the hospital ? they kept saying the hospital.?

He got to the church and met someone who was at the orphanage when he was there.

?So we?re walking up the steps on one side and there was a priest on the other side of the steps and we met at the door at the same time,? Phil said. ?I showed him that document and it was his signature on the bottom of that document.?

It was beyond belief, he added.

?So we went in and took pictures inside the church ? myself and family at the time,? Phil said. ?Then we went back into his office or study and he got an interpreter because he didn?t speak English and he had all these big legal binders in cabinets with glass doors.?

The priest pulled a binder down and opened it up and there was Phil?s name, his wife?s name and where he was married, Phil said.

?It just seemed quite strange for him to open up a book and have our name and information in there,? he added. ?That was kind of a crowning moment, even though we didn?t get to see the orphanage.?

Phil said he thought all the binders had information from all the children who were at the orphanage.

Phil wanted to tell his story about becoming a citizen, because immigration is a really hot topic right now. He thinks all immigrants who come to the United States should do it.

?I?m documented and so should everbody else,? he said. ?I?m an immigrant and I got my citizenship and naturalization. I think people should respect that and make a difference.?