'An assault on her is an assault on us all': U.S.' oldest park ranger beaten and robbed in her home

The nation's oldest national park ranger was beaten this week in her Richmond, Calif., home and robbed of her prized possessions, including a commemorative coin President Obama gave her in December.

Betty Reid Soskin, 94, of Richmond was attacked in her town home about midnight Monday, according to the Richmond Police Department.

Soskin told KTVU-TV she woke up to find a man with a flashlight standing near her. She reached for her cellphone, but he grabbed it from her and they struggled. She screamed as her attacker dragged her from the bed through a hallway, where he struck her a couple of times on the side of her face. She thought “he was going to kill me,” she told the news station.

Somehow Soskin mustered all her strength and was able to lock herself inside a bathroom, where she remained until he left, the news station reported. Fearing he would come at her again, Soskin said she plugged in an iron and was prepared to strike and brand him.

Her attacker stole several personal belongings, including the presidential coin given to her by Obama at the national tree-lighting ceremony in December. The coin was embossed with the presidential seal.

Soskin maintains a detailed blog about her life, and in it she describes receiving her trip to Washington, D.C., in December and meeting Obama.

“In my pocket was the only evidence that it wasn't all a fantasy -- the presidential seal -- to be shared with my co-workers,” she said.

Soskin is a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, where she leads tours and provides a detailed history of women who worked in factories during wartime. She began working with the park service at 85.

On Thursday, the national park said Soskin was recovering.

“Her amazingly strong spirit is a great part of who she is,” the park said.

The park’s superintendent, Tom Leatherman, said the White House has reassured them that they would replace the coin.

But Soskin, he said, is still hopeful the stolen coin will be returned because it was meaningful to her.

On Facebook, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said he was “both angry and greatly saddened” by the assault on Soskin.

“Park Ranger Betty Soskin is arguably Richmond's most famous resident, and an assault on her is an assault on us all,” he said.

Soskin, who is the great-granddaughter of a slave, worked as a file clerk during World War II when she was 20.

In a 2008 park newsletter, she described the experience: “It never dawned on me while filing change‐of‐address cards or taking dues payments in the small office of the racially segregated Boilermakers A‐36 union hall  that I might live long enough to actually become black history, but so it seems.”

The Rosie the Riveter Trust has established a fund for Soskin to help support her as she recovers from the attack.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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