Nation’s oldest park ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, retires at age 100
Betty Reid Soskin, an author, social justice activist and, at age 100, the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service (NPS), retired Thursday after a final year that celebrated her career at Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park, CBS San Francisco reports.
Soskin spent her last day on the job providing an interpretive program to the public and visiting with coworkers at Rosie the Riveter park, named after the iconic campaign during World War II in which millions of women entered the workforce to support the Allied industrial labor effort.
“To be a part of helping to mark the place where that dramatic trajectory of my own life, combined with others of my generation, will influence the future by the footprints we’ve left behind has been incredible,” said Soskin in a prepared statement from the NPS.
“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams in a statement. “I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to sharing her story and wish her all the best in retirement. Her efforts remind us that we must seek out and give space for all perspectives so that we can tell a more full and inclusive history of our nation. Congratulations, Betty!”
As part of the celebrations surrounding her 100th birthday in September 2021, a middle school in El Sobrante was renamed in honor of Soskin, who grew up in Oakland after her family resettled from Louisiana.
Before joining the NPS at age 84, Soskin was part of the planning effort to bring the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park to Richmond. She also worked to help uncover untold stories of African Americans on the home front during WWII.
Soskin has been an eyewitness to American history, growing up under the bigotry of Jim Crow, witnessing the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and living to see and be embraced by America’s first African American President, Barack Obama.
“Being a primary source in the sharing of that history – my history – and giving shape to a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling,” said Soskin. “It has proven to bring meaning to my final years.”
“The National Park Service is grateful to Ranger Betty for sharing her thoughts and first-person accounts in ways that span across generations,” said Naomi Torres, acting superintendent of Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park. “She has used stories of her life on the Home Front, drawing meaning from those experiences in ways that make that history truly impactful for those of us living today.”
Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park will celebrate Soskin’s retirement on April 16 in Richmond. Details of the event can be found on the park’s website.