AUGUSTA — As one of America’s newer citizens, Nattamon “Natt” Thepwong Dumont, 47, of Augusta, was all smiles Tuesday morning as she stood in the Senate chamber.

Surrounded by family and friends, she waited to receive the U.S. flag that flew over Maine’s Capitol on April 11, the day she became a citizen with a number of others during a ceremony at Scarborough High School.

“I’m so proud of it and so happy,” she said. “America is a country of opportunity.”

Dumont has taken advantage of all her opportunities and currently works three jobs — one full time and two part time.

In fact, she was scheduled to work at Black-Eyed Susan’s Greenhouses on Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.

“I love it, working with plants,” she said. “It’s so peaceful and so beautiful.”

She also works parttime at the Sweet Chili Thai restaurant at the Augusta State Airport and full time as a team leader/spa attendant at the Senator Inn & Spa in Augusta. Two of her coworkers there, Sarah Martin, a spa attendant, and her mother, Lisa Martin, the lead aesthetician at the spa, came to the State House to watch Tuesday’s ceremony.

“I was helping her study a little bit for her citizenship test,” Sarah Martin said. A senior at Messalonskee High School, Martin said she was pleasantly surprised to learn that her volunteer work — including assisting Natt Dumont with pronunciation — earned her independent study credits in social studies.

“There were 100 questions and she had to answer 10,” Martin said. “Once she got six right, they stopped the test.”

Dumont was born in the city of Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand, near the border with Myanmar. She was one of seven siblings. Her mother died of leukemia when Dumont was 9, and her oldest sister helped raise the other children.

After college, Dumont worked as a dental hygienist in Chiang Mai, a much larger city west of Chiang Rai, first for the government and then in a private dental clinic where she later became manager. There she used the English she learned in high school to communicate with hundreds of foreign patients who were connected with nearby Chiang Mai University. She also speaks some Japanese.

She met her husband, Tom Dumont, when he toured Thailand in 2008 with friends who used to own the Cafe de Bangkok. He returned to visit her in 2009, and a year later she obtained a visitor visa to come to the United States for 75 days.

“In 2011 we applied for a fiancée visa, and after exhausting paperwork, we received the visa and in June 2011 she came back to the U.S. and we went to Las Vegas’ ‘Little White Wedding Chapel’ and got married and had a wonderful honeymoon in Vegas and Grand Canyon,” Tom Dumont wrote in a biography about his wife.

They took up residence in his hometown, Augusta.

The two travel to Thailand each year so Natt Dumont can visit relatives and friends. Natt Dumont’s father and her oldest sister now live in a new home in Chiang Rai, which the Dumonts had built as a retirement home.

Those long visits led Natt Dumont to abandon her efforts to pursue licensing as a dental hygienist in Maine, deciding it would be too difficult to ask for an extended leave each year.

She said she’s lucky with regard to her job at the Senator Inn. “I really do like my job now. That is perfect. (At) the Senator, there they allow me to take at least three months, and then I can come back and they still hold my position.

“That is wonderful. The job is perfect for me right now.”

However, she and Tom limit the annual trip to about four or five weeks, usually in the winter.

“We both need more jobs to travel for 90 days,” said Tom Dumont, 49, who works in system operations at Central Maine Power Co.

Tom Dumont’s mother, Barbara Lord, of Augusta, attended Tuesday’s ceremony as well, saying she was proud of her daughter-in-law for earning citizenship. “She’s very smart,” Lord said. “She took it very seriously.”

Natt Dumont was able to keep her Thai citizenship and hopes that she can show off her new country to some of her family members who would like to visit her here.

Also at the ceremony Tuesday were Gary and Ellen Crocker, friends of the Dumonts who arranged for the flag presentation through Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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