STOCKBRIDGE -- During the dark days of World War II, the iconic images Norman Rockwell created to illustrate President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech inspired Americans to support the nation's war effort.
On Saturday at 10 a.m., those same paintings will inspire newly-minted Americans as they swear the Oath of Allegiance at their Naturalization Ceremony at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.
The first Berkshire ceremony in a decade took place at the museum a year ago, officiated by District Court Judge Fredric Rutberg and attended by Governor Deval Patrick.
"It was truly one of the most inspiring days I recall at the Norman Rockwell Museum and even in my life," said museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt. "It was so joyous to see families from so many different countries and cultures embrace becoming Americans."
These people are not new arrivals, she pointed out; "they are newly becoming citizens and have been working towards that very hard."
The Four Freedoms "are the very core of what we believe in and our American democracy," she explained.
Judge Rutberg was sworn in as a judge at the museum, and having his own ceremony at the Rockwell inspired the museum to hold last year's the event there. In 1994, Rutberg's Rabbi sat in front of "Freedom of Worship," Norton Moffatt recalled, his parents in front of "Freedom from Want," the governor and officials beside "Freedom of Speech" -- and "[former governor] Jane Swift and I were seated in front of ‘Freedom from Fear,'" she said, "and we had just both become moms."
The Naturalization Ceremony is organized by the Berkshire Immigrant Center (B.I.C.) and sponsored by Berkshire Community College and local businesses. Pittsfield-based B.I.C. supports 160 people each year with citizenship, language, education and legal services.
Executive director Hilary Greene explained that immigrants always look forward to making America their own. In their own country, she said, "they can't make a living or support their families, and they realize they have to give up on that life."
The ceremony is "the final step in their very long immigration path," she said.
Home and health care worker Eunice Bah followed her father to the United States from Ghana five years ago; her two young children were born here.
"I just wanted the opportunity to better my life and to help my children too," she said.
The Oath of Allegiance is "kind of overwhelming, I can't wait," she said. "America is the land of opportunity. If you really want to do something and you are serious, you can do it."
South Egremont resident Franziska Kenney was driven from her native Poland and family by war. After a difficult life in Austria, she came to America in 1965. When her Irish New Yorker husband died in 2007, she decided to become a citizen so she could "vote in favor of all the principles my husband was for, and vote for us both."
"They said, ‘what took you so long?'," she recalled. "America is still a strong defender of freedom," she added. "If I would be anywhere traveling, an American passport would give me security."
After Saturday's ceremony, she said, "nobody can tell me anymore, ‘go back where you come from,' because I am an American then."
Retired telephone company worker Sheikh Siddeeque has seen world-changing events in his lifetime. Following his wartime service in the British Royal Air Force, his Indian home became part of Pakistan during the subcontinent's tumultuous partition. Weary of violence and disorder, in 2008 he came to the U.S. where his daughter was a teacher and settled in Lee.
"I came at the age when people decide to go live in their old country and wait for the end," he explained. "I said, ‘no.' It's very difficult to foresee what course your life is going to take."
"I like this quiet place," he added. "I'm a voracious reader, I go to the library twice a day and read English classics, American travel, history, politics. There's so much, you need three or four lifetimes to enjoy it!"
"Museums and especially libraries fascinate me because this is something wonderful in America," he said.
His daughter, grandson and nephew will join him at the Rockwell.
"I'll have a bit of a crowd with me ," he said.
And he has additional cause to celebrate.
"I will be 88," he said, "one day after I take the Oath of Allegiance."