Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest active park ranger in the United States, who incorporated her real-life experiences in the 1940s into programs at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, quietly retired Thursday, six months after celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Soskin spent her last day on the job doing the job she has enjoyed for more than a decade — educating the public in the park, the National Park Service said in a news release. Soskin has been involved with the Rosie the Riveter site since its inception over 20 years ago, helping with planning and programming.
“Being a primary source in sharing this story – my story – and shaping a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling,” Soskin said in the statement. “It turned out to give meaning to my later years.”
A public recognition ceremony is scheduled for 1-2 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way South, Richmond. No reservation is required.
Soskin made national headlines in September when she celebrated the centenary of her birth in uniform, prompting a visit from ABC News, among others. That day, the West Contra Costa Unified School District named a middle school in his honor.
Thanking Soskin for her service, Naomi Torres, Acting Park Superintendent Rosie the Riveter, said: “She used stories from her life on the home front, drawing meaning from those experiences in a way that made this story really impactful for those of us living today.”
After celebrating her 90th birthday, Soskin told Richmond Confidential that she was more interested in what was not at the park. Doing her own research and drawing on her own experience, she created programming that highlighted the experiences of African Americans and Japanese Americans during World War II.
Born in Detroit when Warren G. Harding was president, Soskin moved to Oakland with her family as a child. She was a file clerk for the A-36 Boilermakers Union during World War II. And in 1945, she and her husband, Mel Reid, founded Reid’s Records in Berkeley, which operated for 75 years, according to Biography of Soskin on the Parks Service website.
She started working for the Park Service at age 84 and has been a permanent employee since 2011.
Park Service Director Chuck Sams called Soskin’s impact “profound”, adding, “His efforts remind us that we must seek out and give space to all perspectives so that we can tell a story. more complete and more inclusive of our nation”.