KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When 86-year-old Yellie Greebe walked across the stage to receive her certificate of citizenship, she did not stop smiling. 

Nor did she stop when she heard the National Anthem. Or when she hugged her family and friends.

Yellie said she was full of patriotism and joy.

"It’s so new that I can hardly say it, but all the years in America has been wonderful and I hope it will continue," she said. "It will."

Yellie was one of 129 Tennessee residents who became citizens at a naturalization ceremony Wednesday morning. The new citizens came from 48 different countries.

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She had moved to the United States in 1985 with her husband, who had been asked to move for work. She gave up her career as a physician, choosing to instead run weight loss centers and give back to the community. 

"She's always focused on helping other people because that's really her specialty is being close to people understanding them, and supporting them," her son Buff Greebe said. "I'm so very proud of my mom."

He said he traveled from the Netherlands to be there for her special day. 

"She always felt you know, that [America's] a very special country and one day I'm going to go there," he said. "So she came here 35 years ago and she finally decided to become a U.S. citizen."

After Yellie's husband passed away, she chose to stay in the United States because she had built a life here. For nearly two decades, she's been a part of the "Ivory League" piano group with Karen Gilbert.

Yellie Greebe
Yellie Greebe with the "Ivory League" piano group.
Courtesy

"[Yellie's] an awesome lady from Holland and we're just excited to see her become a citizen," Karen said. "This will be her very first Fourth of July as a citizen so I know it's going to be extra special for her and her family."

Yellie said she is looking forward to celebrating another July Fourth in America; this time, as an American.

"I have to decide which invitation to take to watch the fireworks," Yellie said. "The thread that’s going through my life is the little phrase Americans are nice people and I still think that way. And I’m proud to be one now."