At 95 years of age, Betty Reid Soskin serves as the oldest National Park Ranger working full time in the country. This ranger helped design the Rosie the Riveter Park in Redmond, California and has worked there for the last ten years.
A living treasure, Soskin received many honors over the course of her career. One of the most notable was President Obama’s presentation of a special commemorative coin to her when she was invited to light the National Christmas tree last Christmas.
In a break-in that occurred recently, an intruder brutally beat Soskin and stole the coin, one of her most prized possessions, along with other objects. The attack left Soskin with black eyes and a split lip. She escaped her attacker, crawled into the bathroom, and plugged in her clothes iron with plans to brand the man if he came back to attack her again. He did not. Despite this harrowing ordeal, Soskin vowed to continue living alone in her Richmond, California home and returned to work only three weeks later.
The Secretary of the Interior replaced the coin during a surprise ceremony in July. An even higher honor came in October 2016. For her years of service and indefatigable spirit, Soskin was read into the Congressional Record, an honor that will see to it Soskin is credited for her service for generations to come. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier presented her with a Congressional Record Statement at the Rosie the Riveter Park WWII Memorial National Park.
Rather than boast about the award, Soskin took the opportunity to talk about WWII history, segregation, and her efforts to bring more artifacts into the Rosie the Riveter museum.
Soskin has an intimate knowledge of those topics since she came of age during an era where black women were typically relegated to roles as domestic servants. Soskin bucked this trend by working in the shipyards during WWII as a file clerk for an all black union that made boilers and steel plates.
A documentary about Betty Reid Soskin’s remarkable life is in the works, so we will be able to learn more about this fascinating living legend.