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National parks icon Betty Reid Soskin retires as ranger at 100

Soskin was born in Detroit in 1921 to African American parents.

Celebrations are set for Saturday at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, Calif., for former National Park Service ranger Betty Reid Soskin.

Prior to her retirement just weeks ago, Soskin, 100, was the oldest active national park ranger serving the United States.

“Participating in helping mark where this dramatic trajectory of my own life, combined with others of my generation, will influence the future through the footprints we left behind has been amazing,” Soskin said in a statement. prepared statement. and NPS announcement.

Soskin first joined the NPS at age 80. In the early 2000s, she became actively involved and participated in the planning effort to bring Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park to the city of Richmond. She is also credited with working to help uncover untold stories of African Americans on the home front during World War II.

“If we don’t know where we started, we have no idea where we are or how we got here. Only if we go back and retrace our steps. And that’s what the park is become for me,” Soskin said during a speech. at Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center, explaining what inspired her to get involved in park planning.

It was these efforts that led her to a temporary position with the NPS at the age of 84, and then to a permanent position.

For more than a decade and a half, she led public programs in the park, providing a broader context of the World War II war effort and the backdrop of racism and segregation through her own life experiences. His great-grandmother, born in 1846, was a slave until she was 19, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Soskin said she was 27 when her slave ancestor died at 102, during her speech.

“The National Park Service is grateful to Ranger Betty for sharing her thoughts and first-person stories in a way that spans generations,” said Naomi Torres, Acting Superintendent of Rosie the National Historic Park. Riveter/WWII Home Front. “She used stories from her life on the home front, drawing meaning from those experiences in ways that made this story truly impactful for those of us living today.”

Soskin was born in Detroit in 1921 to African American parents. She spent her early years in New Orleans before “The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927” caused her family to move west to Oakland, California.

As a young woman during World War II, Soskin worked as a shipyard clerk for an all-black auxiliary lodge of the segregated Boilermakers Union. At the time, the union did not allow people of color and women to become union members.

In 1945, Soskin and her husband founded one of the first black-owned music stores, “Reid’s Records”, which closed in 2019.

She would also later become involved in local politics, having served as a member of the Berkeley City Council and field representative serving two members of the California State Assembly.

In 2015, Soskin introduced President Barack Obama at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

It’s an experience that she says was “probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”

“I was able to introduce the president, on stage, to all of America,” Soskin told the CBS news station in San Francisco.

On Saturday, the NPS will hold a retirement ceremony for Soskin at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park, which will be open to the public.

ABC News

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