At age 98, oldest living national park ranger isn't slowing down
RICHMOND, Calf. - Betty Reid Soskin’s steps are measured and her speech has slowed some, but at age 98, this remarkable woman says she still has so much more to give.
“I haven’t any idea what it is," she said in a recent interview. " I have no idea, except that it’s there. It’s something that I am to accomplish and I haven’t done it yet.”
Nearly five months since suffering a stroke last fall, Soskin is back at work at the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond. She is the oldest living park ranger in the United States.
It’s a career Soskin started well into her '80s telling her own story of being a young black woman growing up in the Bay Area during World War II.
She now continues to inspire and educate the public one day a week at the museum, even as she recovers from her stroke.
“In looking back, I realized I contributed, but I didn’t realize I was doing that at the time," she said.
Soskin’s life is a story of determination.
She was one of six black graduates at Oakland’s Castlemont High School in 1938.
Betty got married in the 50’s and moved to suburban Walnut Creek to build her dream house.
Death threats followed for years, but she persevered.
She raised her four children and managed a record store in Berkeley for over seven decades never bowing to social pressure.
“I realized at one point that no one could tell me that I wasn’t everything everyone else was," Soskin said.
She credits her 102-year-old great grandmother for her courage and activism and has been showered with awards and proclamations for her life’s work including a commemorative coin given to her by President Obama. She still marvels at that night.
“The president is a thoroughly evolved young man," she said. "He’s amazing, and he and his wife are what we all need to be.”
Despite the current political turmoil in Washington, Soskin’s heart is filled with hope.
She believes change comes in cycles and even at the age of 98, she still has her patience.
“I don’t know if this generation is any nearer to perfection, but I do know we are living in an upward cycle," Soskin said. "We are always reaching. If we weren’t I would still be a slave.”