Felix Taborda Romero proudly raised his right hand and recited a solemn oath on Monday afternoon, pledging his allegiance to the United States.
“… I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of escape; so help me God, ”he said.
The family erupted to applause – Taborda Romero, an 88-year-old hospice man with end-stage metastatic colon cancer, was officially a U.S. citizen.
“I’m really moved and excited, more than excited,” said Romero, from an unincorporated area of Martin County, Fla. “I love freedom and freedom… and all the good things you have in this country.”
Taborda Romero and his wife, Laura Apitz de Taborda, emigrated from Venezuela in 2013 as the country faced unprecedented socio-economic problems that political experts said were more serious than the Great Depression.
The husband and wife duo were both well educated and financially stable before the crisis in Venezuela. Apitz de Taborda had a master’s degree in library science and Taborda Romero had a doctorate. and worked as a plant breeder and professor at the University of Zulia.
The economic downturn hit Taborda Romero and Apitz de Taborda hard, earning just $ 6 per month in 2013.
The couple had two sons already living in South Florida, Apitz de Taborda said, and made the decision to leave Venezuela. They moved to their Martin County residence about three years ago.
Apitz de Taborda obtained her citizenship last summer, but Taborda Romero had to face a few roadblocks still delayed by her cancer diagnosis in December.
He decided to forgo any chemotherapy or radiation therapy – choosing to spend the time he was at home surrounded by his wife, three children and six grandchildren. He is now supported by Treasure Coast Hospice in Stuart.
Patients receiving palliative care typically have six months or less to live.
When Kelley Thompson, a licensed clinical social worker, learned that it was Taborda Romero’s last desire to earn her citizenship, she rallied the staff to make it happen.
Thompson spent about two months working out the logistics to perform a rare home citizenship test for Taborda Romero – requiring federal, state, and local clearance and obtaining documents from doctors, law enforcement officials and more.
Seeing it all brought tears to Thompson’s eyes.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “Having worked in palliative care for 15 years, I personally try to do everything I can for each of the families… but it was very special. I am proud of him.
Contact Catie Wegmanat email@example.com and follow her @Catie_Wegman on Twitter and @ catiewegman1 on Facebook.