Kloppers are naturalized citizens
After moving from South Africa to Philip by way of Canada in 1991, Coenraad (Coen) and Trudie Klopper became United States naturalized citizens June 27, 2013.
They were part of a 150-person naturalization ceremony held at Mount Rushmore National Memorial by the United States District Court of South Dakota.
“It was an incredible surrounding for becoming a citizen,” said Coen. Trudie said, “It was a good experience for us. It was so much better than having it in a government office.” It wasn’t just the setting, but the act itself, “It was much more emotional than you would think it would be after all these years,” said Trudie.
Marrying in 1972, having three children in the next six years, Coen graduating from the University of the Orange Free State, and him becoming certified as a medical practitioner in 1980, all in South Africa, made it a hard place to leave.
“We will always have a very deep interest in South Africa; so many friends and wonderful experiences. You don’t just cut off those feelings,” said Trudie. But there were reasons to leave. “When you come from a country where things are not going all that well, maybe you have more appreciation for the new country than those who were born here,” said Trudie.
Coen was licensed in 1991 to practice medicine in South Dakota. They then lived in Philip, where he was employed at Philip Health Services. In 1992, they were granted permanent United States residency. From 1999 to 2003, they lived and worked in Vermillion, but came back to Philip, where they call home.
“We’ve been privileged, really. This is a wonderful place to wind up in,” said Coen. “We are very happy to be here, and the fact that we are citizens. This is a wonderful place to live, to work in, wonderful people,” said Coen. He went on to praise Charlie Ekstrum and the rest of the 1991 hospital board for getting him and his wife to Philip and for making it possible to stay. “We were told that it could not happen. It was impossible. They made it happen through hard work.”
After having to have green cards for 20-some years, the Kloppers applied for citizenship in January of this year. They wanted to be more than just legal visitors in the U.S.
The long delay was more than practical implications. “It is really hard in leaving our country, just really hard to say goodbye,” said Trudie. She explained that with them having a South African passport for return visits, the United States is not responsible for them and they cannot go to the United States consulate. And, South Africa has a policy of taking away land that is owned by foreigners, which the Kloppers now are. Being fifth generation landowners, though, was not enough. Trudie said that South Africa has already taken away all underground and mineral rights from farmers. “We decided that if they wanted to take the land, then they will take it, with us being citizens or not,” said Trudie.
In order to become naturalized citizens, the Kloppers had to pass a test over civics and English. “I managed to scrape through. They give you a hundred questions to know and then they ask you a few. It was easy enough so even I could pass it,” said Coen.
Coen said that he looks forward to being able to vote. “So far they’ve allowed us to pay taxes, but not allowed us to vote,” he said. “I don’t think it changes anything otherwise, other then the right to work. And, I am proud to be a citizen,” said Coen.
“It will be just wonderful to be able to vote again,” said Trudie. “Now we can do what we like because we really have the right now. We have a lot to be thankful for in this country. This country has afforded our kids wonderful opportunities, and they have made use of that,” said Trudie.
Their children are all graduates of Philip High School. Leta is a lawyer in Australia, Henk is a neurosurgeon in Sioux Falls, and Steph is an echocardiographer in Minnesota.