MOUNT VERNON — On a sunny and hot Independence Day on Old Mansfield Road, just north of Mount Vernon, emotions ran as high as the temperature when Uwe Locher was introduced as a new citizen of the United States. A crowd of nearly 100 people gathered to celebrate at the home of Ken and Terri Farnham, marking the completion of a long citizenship journey for their friend.
Uwe Locher (pronounced oo-vay lock-er) grew up in Stuttgart, West Germany, before moving to the United States in 1986. He met his soon-to-be wife, Sylvia, who was from the United States, while she was at a Bible school in Switzerland with her missionary parents. Sylvia and Uwe had two children, Tobias and Viktoria, before entertaining thoughts of coming to the states.
The possibility of beginning his own carpentry business was presented to Locher, but German customs required him to be licensed as a master carpenter or to hire a master carpenter to work with him. As this didn’t seem practical to Locher, the family decided to move to the United States in 1986, where they landed in Maine.
Locher worked as a church camp caretaker before talking with LeBron Fairbanks, then president of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, in 1990, about a plumber position, which Locher accepted. He then took math classes, passed his pre-professional skills test, and began a teaching career that involved teaching at Fredericktown Schools and now at Hillsdale Schools in Ashland. Sylvia is now librarian at Ashland Theological Seminary.
When immigrating from Germany to the United States, he was given a card with no expiration date stating he was a “resident alien,” but on the most recent trip back, Naturalization Services told Locher he would have to get a new card with a two-year expiration period. And so began the process of U.S. citizenship, where he went through an application, fingerprinting, interview sequence, a reading test and a writing test. He would then have to prove he was worthy of citizenship by holding a continuous job, having a clean record and correctly answering six questions on a 10-question quiz. The task was completed March 23 when Locher was one of 54 people from 26 nations receiving U.S. citizenship before a judge in Columbus.
With his friends gathered at the Farnham residence to welcome him on July 4, Locher and his family arrived where he was given an American flag to carry while he was escorted around to the backyard while being serenaded by nearly 100 blaring kazoos to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Ken Farnham then introduced Locher as one of the newest U.S. citizens and presented him with a gift of an American flag. Security officers Brad Fox and Bob Tocheff then arrived, checking everyone’s Knox County citizen credentials. When Locher couldn’t produce his credential, he was then grilled on a number of questions about Knox County to see if he was worthy of citizenship — which everyone agreed he was. He then led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
With patriotic music playing, the grounds decorated in red, white and blue, and the all-American foods of hot dogs, hamburgers, apple pie and more being served, it was an all-American atmosphere.
“This all makes me proud to be an American,” Locher said, adding it was always hard to be proud of his country due to a stigma from World War II.
Being a soccer fan, he said it was a bit easier in 2006 when Germany finished third in the World Cup.
“With my hand on my heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance, this all makes me proud to be an American,” he said. This sentiment was also expressed on his T-shirt which read “Ich bin stolz, ein Amerikauer zu sein,” which in English means “I’m proud to be an American.”
“America usually does what is right,” said Locher. “America wants to support what is right, and I support that.”