By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first nine decades of her life, Chengyi Pan was a Chinese citizen.

She remembers the days during World War II when American pilots dropped daily supplies, including toothpaste and chocolate.

“She was so impressed. She says they couldn’t survive without the help of American even back in the 1940s,” said her daughter, Ting Ni.

Still, Chengyi never imagined a life outside of China.

But when her son and daughter left for the United States to study, and her husband passed away in 2009, she was suddenly alone in the only country she ever knew.

So, she applied to come here.

“Quickly she was approved, because she didn’t have any family members in China,” Ting said.

In September, at 97-years-young, Chengyi officially became a U.S. citizen.

Now, she’s about to do something else for the first time.

“She really wants the U.S. to keep being the best country in the world,” Ting said, translating for her mother. “Therefore, she’d like to do whatever she can to help with this effort.”

On Tuesday, like thousands of others, Chengyi will cast her vote.

It’s something she was never able to do in Communist China.

And she knows she has a tough decision ahead of her.

“There’s a Republican Party and  a Democratic Party. Both parties are good,” Chengyi said.

Chengyi said she’s too old now to do a lot of things, but exercising her new-found Democracy isn’t one of them.

“She feels the U.S. is the best country in the world. She wants to make the kind of contribution she can,” Ting said.

Chengyi said she misses her friends back in China, but is thankful that the U.S. government allowed her to come here to be closer to her son and daughter.

John Lauritsen