Election “a big deal” for the Walkers

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bev and Bill Walker walk out of the Washington Ward 2 precinct Tuesday after casting their first presidential votes. (WDN Photo/Betty Mitchell Gray)

Unlike most Beaufort County voters, Bill and Bev Walker of Washington hoped for a large crowd when they went to the polls at the Washington Ward 2 precinct Tuesday.
They looked forward to seeing candidates distributing campaign materials, the poll workers manning their stations and lots of voters like themselves waiting in line to cast ballots.
That’s because the Walkers cast their first votes in a presidential election as citizens of the United States.
“We are so excited,” said Bev Walker in an interview on the eve of Election Day. “Our families are sick of hearing us talk about it.”
“This is a big deal,” said her husband, Bill.
Bev Walker cast her first vote in a national election of any kind.
That’s because the Walkers moved to the United States in 1972, when Bill Walker was transferred from their native Canada to a job in Saint Louis, Mo., before Bev Walker had a chance to vote in a Canadian national election.
Since that time, the Walkers have lived in the United States, had their daughters here and raised their children in this country, paid taxes here and have enjoyed the same freedoms as other U.S. citizens.
They moved to Washington from Atlanta in 2004, drawn to eastern North Carolina by its beautiful rivers and waterways. Since then, they have become active members of the community.
Until they became U.S. citizens in 2009, they have not had the right to vote here.
“We could do everything but vote,” Bev Walker said of life in the United States. “But every time the elections came around, we felt cheated.”
For many years after moving to the United States from their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, the Walkers considered applying for citizenship in this country.
But Bill Walker’s father was opposed to that move.
As time went by, however, the Walkers decided the time had come to make it official.
In 2009, the day they took the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Durham, the two dressed in the colors of red, white and blue, and, with rapidly beating hearts, raised their right hands and became citizens.
“We could barely say the words,” Bev Walker said. “We were so proud, and both sobbing.”
They cast their first votes as U.S. citizens in 2010, but the national election is especially exciting for the couple.
Bev Walker said she still marvels at the way this country manages to peacefully transition from one national leader to another.
“When you look at the way our country operates — that we have the passing of the torch in such a civil way — you can’t help but be proud,” she said.