Nation's oldest park ranger back at work after stroke

FILE ART - Betty Reid Soskin, the nation's oldest full-time working National Park Ranger.

Following a stroke she suffered in the fall, the nation’s oldest National Park Ranger said she’s “back at work” – sort of –  at the Rosie the Riveter museum in Richmond.

“Hello friends! This is actually Betty,” 98-year-old Betty Reid Soskin wrote on Facebook. Five months after a stroke, I’m back at work. Not “actually”, but at the invitation of Tom Leatherman. I’ll just be visiting, with no work schedule to get in the way, but back at work none-the-less. We take whatever we can get." 

She said she’ll be at the museum from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Soskin is not only the oldest ranger in the United States, but arguably one of the most famous. Locally, she’s known for her historical lessons on WWII, and she often speaks about her own experience as a young black woman working at a segregated union hall in Richmond. She worked as a file clerk for the Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all-black union auxiliary. In the true sense of the word, she was never a "Rosie," because that title is typically held for female wartime shipyard workers who were white.

She wrote “Sign My Name To Freedom,” a memoir that includes her experiences as a singer, civil rights activist, legislative representative, mother and as one of the chief planners of the Rosie the Riveter museum. She was also owner of Reid’s Records, which she and her late husband, Mel Reid, owned. The store, which operated for 75 years, closed in October. 

Soskin used her age and status to make her voice be heard in 2013 when she publicly urged Congress to get its act together and end the forced federal furloughs. She said she didn’t want to waste any time sitting around at home at her age.

The following year, she was brutally attacked by an intruder at her home in Richmond. In addition to stealing Soskin’s iPhone, iPad, laptop and jewelry, the thief also took Soskin’s presidential coin - the one Obama gave her at the tree lighting -- which was later replaced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Soskin has received a number of awards, including a presidential coin from President Barack Obama at the 2015 National Tree Lighting Ceremony. She also was named among Glamour Magazine’s 2018 Women of the Year.