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100-year-old park ranger Betty Reid Soskin feted by national media, honored by WCCUSD

on September 24, 2021

It was a big week for Betty Reid Soskin, who turned 100 years old on Wednesday and was honored that day with the renaming of an El Sobrante middle school for her.

Soskin has been an activist in the Bay Area and a park ranger in Richmond for many years and shows no sign of slowing down.

She’s familiar to West Contra Costa school children who have taken her tours through Richmond’s National Historical Park, which has sites throughout the city including the Rosie the Riveter Memorial at Marina Bay Park.

Betty Reid Soskin talks to visitors on before her weekly bus tour. (Photo by Nancy DeVille)

After celebrating her 90th birthday, Soskin told Richmond Confidential, “My interest in this park was always sparked by what was not there,” noting that only with time and further research has the experience of African Americans and Japanese Americans during World War II come to light.

Her 100th birthday spurred a lot of buzz, with Soskin appearing on ABC’s national evening news and on several other broadcasts. Her story also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

Born in Detroit when Warren G. Harding was president, Soskin moved to Oakland with her family when she was a child. During World War II, she was a clerk for an all-black union auxiliary, watching the history that she teaches today unfold.

She said Richmond was an incubator for social change and “the site of the greatest mobilization of human power since the pyramids.” Thanks in large part to women workers, more ships were built at the Richmond Shipyards during WWII than anywhere else.

“There is hope for the future in the story of what we accomplished in the past,” Soskin said at the time.

On Wednesday, after a campaign to remove the name of 18th century missionary Juan Crespi from the building, West Contra Costa Unified School District cut the ribbon in the Betty Reid Soskin Middle School.

1 Comment

  1. Dee Amaden on September 25, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this! For anyone interested in another tribute to Betty, she’s being honored by the park’s official nonprofit partner, the Rosie the Riveter Trust, on Sunday at 5 p.m., in Richmond. In-person tickets are sold out, but there is a ticketed ($35) live-streamed program (hosted, so more than just watching the live event). Advanced registration is required: http://www.rosietheriveter.org. Again, thanks for helping us all in recognizing this amazing woman!

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