Reviving History - Betty Reid Soskin unearths some of Richmond’s otherwise forgotten WWII stories

By Matt Larson

Having really seen it all, Betty offers a bit of comfort to sooth the wounds of the 2019 political climate. “These periods of chaos have been with us since 1776,” she affirmed. “It’s in those times that democracy is being redefined. That’s when we have access to the reset button and that’s when we take the giant leap.”

Is it ever too late to start a new career? Betty Reid Soskin, Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service, got the job when she was 85. Now, at 97, she is the eldest park ranger in the country and is subsequently becoming a household name.

Three to five times per week she educates visitors of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, sharing stories of WWII that would otherwise be forgotten. These stories leave visitors fascinated, shocked, inspired…

“Becoming a ranger was not my intention,” Betty recalled. “I never dreamed of any such thing.” As a field representative for California State Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, Betty’s job was to sit in on planning meetings for a new national park commemorating the WWII home front in Richmond. The stars had aligned, as she was part of that very home front effort back in the 1940s.

“I never did see a ship under construction, I never did see a ship being launched. I was a 20-year-young clerk, and a woman of color, in a segregated Jim Crow union hall,” she expressed. “I didn’t have any sense of being a part of anything, really. But I have that sense now.”

Of all the boomtowns that developed amidst the WWII effort, Richmond was selected for this park because only here were there enough still-standing structures th