Now we’re celebrating the birthday of Betty Reid Soskin, an active ranger with the National Park Service who hit the century mark yesterday.
At 100-years-old, she’s easily the oldest ranger in the service.
But according to NPR, the list of her accomplishments in life is much longer than that.
She’s a published author. She was a songwriter and activist during the civil rights movement. And before her gig with the Park Service she had a career in business.
Soskin was born in Detroit, Michigan on September 22, 1921. Her family migrated to the West Coast and settled down near Oakland in 1927.
She currently works at the Rosie the Riveter & WWII Home Front National Historic Park in California. Her career with the National park Service started in 2000 after she attended a public presentation focused on plans to create the park she now works at. She made quite the impression on the superintendent of the Park Service at the time, Judy Hart, when she proclaimed that she had a love-hate relationship with Rosie the Riveter.
Soskin claimed she never saw herself as a Rosie the Riveter type woman because of the difference in skin color. She expressed that she knew plenty of first-hand stories from women who went to work during wartime back then who had to battle racism, segregation, and discrimination. She reportedly has her own stories to share, too, considering she worked as a file clerk during the war at a union hall that was still segregated.
But she saw a job at the park as an opportunity to help tell untold stories of Black Americans on the home front during WWII prior to the civil rights movement, and at age 84, she accepted a temporary position with the National Park Service.
4-years later, she officially became a park ranger, and now she continues to make a lasting impact on those around her while building a legacy of dedication and service.
The National Park Service posted a tribute to her in recognition of her birthday.
“Happy 100th to Ranger Betty Reid Soskin! 🎉
Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 today, is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Over the past decade and a half, Ranger Betty has shared her experiences as well as the efforts and sacrifices of women from diverse backgrounds living and working on the World War II home front.”
Her honors extend far beyond just an Instagram post. In 2015 she received a presidential commemorative from President Barack Obama during the 2015 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
“Standing with Obama on the stage in Washington, D.C…that was the moment that, I really, my whole life came together. In my bag was a picture of my great-grandmother, and I was holding it as I was introducing the president of the United States, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, in the shadow of the White House that was built by slaves.
The whole meaning of that has really captured me. That was probably the high point of my life.”
She received another huge honor yesterday. To celebrate her birthday, a Bay Area school was renamed the Betty Reid Soskin Middle School in her honor.
“Having a school named for me is more than I ever thought of because it means that a number of children will go into the world knowing who I was and what I was doing here. Maybe it will make a difference. I think maybe it will make a difference.”
When asked about her secret to a long life, she said it’s not a glass of wine or whiskey a day, though she does enjoy a little chocolate on a daily basis.
“I wish I knew. I’m not sure that there is a secret. I think it’s all just one foot at a time. One foot in front of the other. I don’t think any one of us really understands what it’s about.”
Genetics might be the most obvious answer, though. Soskin’s mother lived to be 101, and her grandmother, who was born a slave in Louisiana in 1956, lived to be 102-years-old.
So here’s to hoping that Betty Reid Soskin will set a new family record and continue working as a park ranger well past the age of 102, and here’s to applauding the legacy she’s built that will last forever.