Betty Reid Soskin, who is 100 years old, is the National Park Service’s oldest active ranger. While becoming a ranger at 85 was never part of her plan, Soskin said she is still as passionate as ever about connecting with park visitors 15 years later.

Soskin, who celebrated her centennial birthday in September, was honored by having one of the local middle schools in her community renamed after her.

What You Need To Know

  • At 100 years old Betty Reid Soskin is the country's oldest active ranger

  • She works at the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in Richmond

  • In 2015, she introduced President Barack Obama at a tree lighting ceremony in Washington D.C.

  • Soskin is also a musical and civil rights activist who owned the first Black-owned music store in Berkeley

“I feel so special at 100,” Soskin adds.

The Civil Rights activist, who grew up in Oakland, is making sure those who visit the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond learn about different perspectives in history.

“There were so many more stories. My story for instance, the story of a Black woman during that time was simply unheard, the story of the Japanese, 120,000 people who were captured,” Soskin said.

Soskin said sharing those often overlooked stories like her own is the reason she is still committed to educating her community about what it was like to work as a clerk for a segregated union in the 1940s.

“What gets remembered is determined by who is in that room doing the remembering,” said Soskin during a video shared on the National Park Service’s website.

While the pandemic has made her transition to virtual presentations, Soskin remains passionate as ever about connecting with younger generations.

“Her impact is even bigger than the park,” said Soskin’s daughter, Di’ara Melite Kitty Reid.

Reid shares that other rangers throughout the country have been inspired by her mom to also share the untold stories of their region.

“Maybe they’re not convenient stories, but they’re the truth — the real stories about history that have been forgotten or neglected are being told throughout the park system,” Reid added.

Working as a ranger is one of the many hats Soskin has worn throughout her life. She is also a musician who co-founded the first Black-owned music store in Berkeley with her then husband. Soskin later served as a field represented in the California State Assembly and was named Woman of the Year by the California Legislature in 1995.

“I didn’t expect to be so many things in so many ways,” Soskin said. 

Soskin said one of the most memorable moments in her life was in 2015 when she was invited to the White House to introduce President Barrack Obama during a tree lighting ceremony.

Her encounter with the Obamas was significant in many ways. Soskin shared the once in a lifetime experience with her two granddaughters while carrying a photo of her great grandmother who was born into slavery in the 1840s.

“In that moment, there was the first Black president of the United States and all that history in my hand — it was something I’ll never forget,” Soskin said.

The former president gave Soskin a commemorative coin that reminds her of how far the nation has come since the times of her enslaved great grandmother and continues to serve as a reminder of the importance to keep telling the untold stories in American history.