America's Oldest National Park Ranger Retires at 100 Years Old

Soskin became famous for her personal tours at Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park.

Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest full-time National Park Service ranger in the United States, poses for a portrait in her home
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

​​Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest active park ranger for the National Park Service (NPS), retired last week at the age of 100.

"Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission," said NPS Director Chuck Sams, said in a press release. "Her efforts remind us that we must seek out and give space for all perspectives so that we can tell a more full and inclusive history of our nation.

Soskin's retirement marks the end of 16 influential years with the NPS.

Soskin spent March 31, her last day as a park ranger, "providing an interpretive program to the public and visiting with coworkers at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park," the release read.

Soskin began working with the San Francisco-area park as a consultant in 2000. At the time, she was the only person of color in planning meetings and voiced her complicated relationship with Rosie the Riveter, who had come to symbolize the experience of white women during the war. As part of Soskin's work, she uncovered the untold stories of African Americans on the homefront during WWII, which led to a temporary position with the park.

Naomi Torres, acting superintendent of the park, said that the service was "grateful to Ranger Betty for sharing her thoughts and first-person accounts [...] in ways that make that history truly impactful for those of us living today."

National Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin, left, leaves with fellow ranger Kelli English after greeting visitors at the the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.
Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

In 2011, Soskin became a permanent NPS employee and became famous for her tours of the park. Her tours, which included many personal anecdotes, were known to sell out weeks or even months in advance.

Before taking on her role as a park ranger, Soskin has also been a political activist (working for both the Black Panthers and the Antiwar movement), an accomplished museum, blogger, and political aide.

"Being a primary source in the sharing of that history – my history – and giving shape to a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling," Soskin said in a statement. "It has proven to bring meaning to my final years."

The NPS has made a one-hour talk with Soskin available to view online.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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