Sillitoe a citizen after 22 years Turned three-month visit into lifelong stay

Published 2:31 am Monday, September 24, 2007

By By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
In 1985, the day after his 19th birthday, Mark Sillitoe left Colchester, England and came to America. He had just finished college in his native land and planned on spending three months in North Carolina. He never moved back.
One week ago, Sillitoe was officially granted U.S. citizenship, though he has been a legal resident since he and his wife, Rhonda, wed 20 years ago. To gain citizenship, Sillitoe was put to some rigorous and some not-so-tough tests to prove his worth, he said.
Sillitoe said becoming a U.S. citizen made him “very proud,” but that “it felt a bit different knowing that you are giving up your nationality.”
Sillitoe said he was drawn to the United States by its size as compared to his home island in Europe. The space allows him to breathe, he said.
One of the features that endears Sillitoe to eastern North Carolina is its topography, he said.
Coming to America represented opportunities that Sillitoe said he never would have thought of in Britain. For 17 years, he has owned and operated his own painting-contractor business.
Since his immigration, Sillitoe has made numerous trips to England to visit, but said he could never think of returning to live. His parents own a house in Bath now and often visit and his brother plans to immigrate soon, Sillitoe said.
And, while at home in Bath, Sillitoe says he is the one made fun of for his accent, when he first took his wife to visit England, her utterance of “y’all” was thought hilarious.