The National Park Service’s oldest active ranger has announced her retirement at the age of 100.
Betty Reid Soskin’s last day was Thursday at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, where she led programs with the public and shared her own experiences from the war with 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,” Soskin said in a statement from the National Park Service. “It has proven to bring meaning to my final years.”
Soskin was born in Detroit in 1921, and her Cajun-Creole family moved to Louisiana when she was a child. They moved again, to California, after being displaced along with hundreds of thousands of others by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
During World War II, she faced discrimination working for the U.S. Air Force before going on to work as a file clerk in a segregated union auxiliary. In 1945, she and then-husband Mel Reid opened Reid’s Records, a Berkeley music store that became an institution and, when it closed in 2019, was the oldest record store in the state.
She was a political staffer at the local and state levels, and in the early 2000s, started helping develop plans for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, which opened in 2001 to honor the working women of World War II. She got more and more involved with the park, and by 2011, she was a permanent NPS employee.
Soskin has been a devoted advocate for making sure that Black women’s experiences are included in the history the park commemorates. She’s also said she hoped that seeing her could inspire girls of color.
“I still love this uniform,” she told the “Today Show” in 2015. “Partly because there’s a silent message to every little girl of color that I pass on the street or in an elevator or on an escalator ... that there’s a career choice she may have never thought of.”
The park plans to hold a celebration of Soskin’s retirement in April.