‘British born, American by choice’

Sequim couple reflect on their citizenship

The widely sought American dream — the social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative — turned from vision to reality for two immigrants now settled in Sequim.

“I became a citizen because I just loved America … the relaxed lifestyle and because opportunities are based upon abilities and not seniority,” Phil Castell said.

As owner of Castell Insurance, Phil has lived in Sequim with his wife Sharon for 14 years. Although both were born in England, the two have built a life in America and ultimately in Sequim on the picturesque Olympic Peninsula.

“We’ve traveled quite a lot and there’s just nowhere as beautiful as the peninsula,” Phil said.  Sharon’s family immigrated to the U.S. in 1978 when she was 17 years old.

“My parents were looking for a better life and that’s why we moved to America,” she said.

For Sharon the move meant leaving Phil, her high school sweetheart, and without doubt there were “a lot of tears,” she said.

“It was a bit of a cultural shock,” she added, “We didn’t have cheerleading and football and drivers-ed in school where I came from.”

Also, in England students graduate high school by age 16 and by 17 Sharon already had been going to the pubs and transitioning to more of an adult life, which made her feel older than her American peers, she explained.

However, within two years Sharon felt rooted in America and love’s perseverance caused Phil to follow his heart and join her.

“There are two stories — she says she came and dragged me over here, but I say I came and rescued her,” Phil said.

After having his green card for five years as required, Phil was naturalized 30 years ago on July 4, 1986 — a notable year for the country as it also was the Statue of Liberty Centennial.

“It was a great day,” he said. “I was very proud.”

Along with about 300-400 other immigrants and local dignitaries, Phil became an American citizen at Seattle Center’s then Flag Pavilion. Sharon followed her husband’s footsteps and became an American citizen 15 years ago on July 4, 2001, also at the old Flag Pavilion.

“It was a very special day,” she said. “I don’t like to be in the limelight, but I did sit right in front row on that day.”