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The United States’ oldest active national park ranger has finally called it a day: On Thursday, the National Park Service announced that Betty Reid Soskin is retiring at age 100.
Soskin began her career as a park ranger late in life. Born in Detroit in 1921, Soskin spent World War II working as a clerk in Boilermakers Union A-36, an all-Black trade union, giving her an inside view of industry. After the war, she and her first husband Mel Reid moved to California and opened Reid’s Records, one of the first Black-owned record stores in the United States.
While working for California State Assembly members Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock, Soskin became involved in the planning for what would eventually become Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, California. In 2003, she became a consultant for the Park Service; in 2007, at age 85, she became a ranger, and in 2011, she joined the park as a full-time employee. Soskin gave tours of the park to visitors, sharing her firsthand experience working in the segregated environment of World War II’s home front to help them understand the park’s purpose.
As the years went by, Soskin enjoyed a higher profile, making a trip to the White House in 2015 to participate in its Christmas tree lighting and even narrating a commercial for The North Face in 2021. In 2019, she suffered a stroke, returning to work at the park shortly thereafter, and gave virtual talks when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the park to close.
In a press release, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams praised Soskin for her service.
“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” he said. “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.
As she had for so many days before, Soskin spent her last day on the job presenting the park’s story to visitors.
“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 in the release. “It has proven to bring meaning to my final years.”