Visitors to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, are now missing one very valuable resource. National park ranger Betty Reid Soskin is retiring at age 100.
Soskin was the National Park Service’s oldest ranger and brought her astonishing lived experiences to the job. Raised in Oakland, she worked in a segregated union hall during World War II and later founded one of the first Black-owned music stores in the Bay Area, Reid’s Records, which remained in business for nearly 65 years.
Soskin was also highly active during the Civil Rights Movement, marching and fundraising for the Black Panthers.
While working as a field representative for a state legislator in 2000, Soskin was invited to plan meetings for the park. It quickly became apparent she would be instrumental in bringing stories of Black Americans on the home front during World War II to light, making sure details of wartime segregation would be preserved for future generations. Her knowledge eventually led to a full-time position as a park ranger in 2007, offering tours and lectures. She was, until her retirement, the oldest active park ranger in the NPS, and one of the most influential women to ever work in the service.
“The National Park Service is grateful to Ranger Betty for sharing her thoughts and first-person accounts in ways that span across generations,” Naomi Torres, acting superintendent of Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, said in a press release. “She has used stories of her life on the home front, drawing meaning from those experiences in ways that make that history truly impactful for those of us living today.”
The park will celebrate Soskin’s retirement on Saturday, April 16.
[h/t Travel + Leisure]