Betty Reed Soskin, the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service, turned 100 on September 22.
Soskin began working for the NPS well into the ’80s and is known for telling her story of being a young black woman growing up in the Bay Area during World War II.
She is currently assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. National Park Service website.
Soskin was originally born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he and his family survived the “Great Flood” of 1927.
Ranger Betty Reed Soskin sits in front of Rosie the River Visitor Center.
After the flood, Soskin and her family moved to Oakland, California where she remains today.
Soskin opened one of the first Black-owned record stores in the Berkeley area called Reed’s Records, which she co-run with her first husband, Mel Reid.
According to Soskin, “Reid’s Records had a humble beginning, with Soskin selling records through the window of the garage door, but it turned into a Bay Area institution run by his children until it closed in 2019.” NPS Biography Website.
Soskin has shown great resilience throughout the years. That resilience was tested when he was attacked in a home-invasion robbery in 2016, where one of the The items stolen include a commemorative coin given to him by President Barack Obama. Being the oldest park ranger in the country.
Other accolades include Honored by Glamor Magazine in their ‘Woman of the Year’ issue.
In 2019, Soskin suffered a stroke But after five months he returned to work.
In June, the West Contra Costa Unified School District in Richmond, California, unanimously voted to rename one of its middle schools after an iconic and much-decorated Rosie the River Park Ranger.
of the district Juan Crespi Middle School On her 100th birthday, Betty Reid became Soskin Middle School.
Soskin was chosen for her contributions as a civil rights activist, but also for her longtime leadership at Richmond’s Rosie the River WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
“I’m a firm believer in giving people their flowers while they’re still here to smell them,” said school principal Guthrie Fleischman. “There are far fewer schools named after women and fewer named women of color and even fewer named black women.”
During Wednesday’s event, Soskin, whose great-grandmother was born into slavery in 1846, shared that she has only recently begun to feel deserving of the privileges and honors she is receiving.
“And I will continue to feel worthy for the rest of my life,” she said.
KTVU contributed to this report.