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100-year-old national park ranger Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest, is retiring after 15 years at Rosie the Riveter Park

RICHMOND, California – The nation’s oldest active park ranger is hanging up her smokey hat at the age of 100.

Betty Reid Soskin retired Thursday after more than 15 years at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, the National Park Service said.

Soskin “spent her last day offering an interpretive program to the public and visiting colleagues,” the Park Service said in a statement.

She led tours of the park and museum honoring the women who worked in factories during the war and shared her own experiences as a black woman during the conflict. She worked for the US Air Force in 1942, but resigned after learning that “she was only employed because her superiors thought she was white,” according to a Park Service biography.

“It has been exciting and fulfilling to be a primary resource for sharing this story — my story — and giving shape to a new national park,” Soskin said in the Park Service’s statement. “It proved to give meaning to my final years.”

VIDEO: School named after National Park ranger Betty Reid Soskin on her 100th birthday

Soskin won a temporary valet position at the age of 84 and became a permanent valet employee in 2011. Last September she celebrated her 100th birthday.

“Betty has had a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we accomplish our mission,” said Director Chuck Sams. “Your efforts remind us that we must seek and accommodate all perspectives so that we can tell a more complete and inclusive story of our nation.”

Born Betty Charbonnet in Detroit in 1921, Soskin recalled surviving the devastating 1927 Mississippi River flood while living in New Orleans with her Creole family, according to the Park Service biography.

Her family then moved to Oakland, California, and Soskin stayed in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she and her first husband opened one of the first black-owned record stores in the area in 1945, the biography reads.

She was also a civil rights activist and attended meetings to develop an overall management plan for Home Front Park. She has received several honors.

In 1995 she was named California Woman of the Year.

In 2015, Soskin received a Presidential Coin from President Barack Obama after lighting the national Christmas tree at the White House.

In June 2016, she was awakened at her home by a robber who repeatedly slapped her in the face, dragged her out of her bedroom, and beat her before making off with the coin and other items. Soskin, then 94, recovered and returned to work just weeks after the attack. The coin has been replaced.

Soskin was also honored with entry into the Congressional Record. Glamor Magazine named her Woman of the Year in 2018.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Dais Johnston

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