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Best Wishes for Your Retirement, Betty Reid Soskin!

AARP celebrates the centenarian, who was America’s oldest serving ranger with the National Park Service before retiring this spring.  

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Mathew Scott
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We’re here to give a special sister centenarian her flowers.

Betty Reid Soskin may have a slight frame, but she is a powerful agent for change. She knows firsthand what it is to be excluded. Her great-grandmother was born into slavery, and Soskin came of age at a time when segregation was still prevalent. During WWII, she was a clerk for the African American auxiliary of the Boilermakers union because unions at that time didn’t allow Black members.

Because she values a full accounting of history and the inclusion of those groups that often get erased or marginalized, Soskin made sure to join the planning committee for the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park in California. She was the only person of color on that committee, and as such she made sure that the park would tell the stories of those whom history hasn’t always given a voice.

At age 85, Soskin began working as a ranger for the park she helped mold. As part of her role, she led a tour titled, “Untold Stories and Lost Conversations,” during which she would share her own experiences as well as the stories of other African Americans and women of color who participated in America’s home front effort during WWII.

It is important to Soskin that people learn and “understand the width of the war,” noting that “what we remember is largely due to who’s in the room doing the remembering.”

Soskin passionately served the National Park Service for 15 years. And before she retired last month at age 100, she was the oldest active ranger. This April 16, the park will host an event to honor her service and celebrate her retirement.

AARP salutes and celebrates the amazing legacy of the author and activist, with whom we visited while she was on the job, helping to give voice to history.