Betty Reid Soskin, America's oldest active National Park ranger, retired Thursday (March 31) at the age of 100.
Soskin, a native of New Orleans, began her journey with the National Park Service (NPS) at the age of 84 as a volunteer and moved into a permanent employee role in 2011. In her time with NPS, Soskin led programs and shared her personal life stories at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, giving visitors a realistic glimpse into the Black women and people during World War II.
"Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission," NPS Director Chuck Sams said in a statement. "I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to sharing her story and wish her all the best in retirement."
In her early life, Soskin lived in New Orleans with her family until the 1927 "Great Flood" when they relocated to Oakland, California. It was there she worked as a file clerk in a segregated union hall during World War II. She met her and married her husband Mel Reid, who opened Reid's Records –– one of the first Black-owned music stores in the country –– in 1945. The store closed in 2019.
In September 2021, Soskin celebrated her 100th birthday at a school renaming ceremony in which the El Sobrante, California.
Before becoming a Park Ranger, Soskin helped oversee plans to build the WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond.
"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," Soskin said, according to The Hill.
"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, she said. "It has proven to bring meaning to my final years."
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