The National Park Service's oldest ranger has retired at age 100.
The National Park Service employs thousands of park rangers in law enforcement and interpretive roles at hundreds of historic and nature sites across the United States.
However, Betty Reid Soskin is one of a kind, and she's just retired as a ranger at the ripe age of 100. The National Park Service announced Soskin retired after a decade of working an interpretive program at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.
Soskin is originally from New Orleans, and was born into an African American and Cajun-Creole family. Her parents moved her family to Oakland in at the end of World War I. She served as a file clerk in a segregated Union Hall during World War II and later founded a music store with her husband Mel Reid.
Soskin eventually helped with the planning and development of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in the early 2000s. The NPS notes that she helped with the development of a grant that revealed many previously untold stories of the home front and how African Americans helped at home during WWII.
At the age of 84, she took on a temporary job working with the National Park Service. She was made a permanent park ranger in 2011. The NPS normally caps the age of new ranger hires at 35, but they made an exception for Betty. She quickly became one of the most famous rangers in the NPS, drawing visitors from all over the world to hear her firsthand stories.
"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," Soskin said. "It has proven to bring meaning to my final years."
The park where Soskin worked features the Rosie the Riveter memorial and many interpretive displays on what life was like at home as World War II played out in other parts of the world. Soskin's last day at work was spent working her interpretive program.
"Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission," NPS Director Chuck Sams said when Soskin's retirement was announced. "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. Congrats Betty!"
Soskin turned 100 years old in September of 2021. A middle school in the area was re-named in her honor for the occasion. The National Park Service plans to host a public recognition ceremony for her on Saturday, April 16 at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond from 1:00-2:00 p.m. local time, and reservations are required. You can learn more from the National Park Service website.
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