Nation’s oldest park ranger returns to work after she was beaten and robbed in her home
Two weeks after she was beaten and robbed in her Richmond, Calif., home, Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest national park ranger, returned to work Tuesday to cheers and hugs.
Soskin, 94, is a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, where she leads tours and provides a history of women who worked in factories during wartime. She began working with the park service at 85.
On June 27, she was attacked in her Richmond town home and robbed of her prized possessions, including a commemorative coin President Obama gave her in December.
Soskin told KTVU-TV she woke up last month to find a man with a flashlight standing near her. She reached for her cellphone, but he grabbed it from her and they struggled. Her attacker dragged her from the bed through a hallway, where he punched her multiple times on the side of the face.
Soskin thought “he was going to kill me,” she told the news station; her face was badly bruised after the attack, and her lip was split. She got away and locked herself in the bathroom, plugging in an iron and preparing to “brand” him if he entered, she told the station.
Soskin, smiling and wearing her ranger’s uniform, spoke to reporters at the park on Tuesday, her face healed of the bruises and cuts. Her colleagues took turns embracing her, cheering as she walked in to work.
“I wanted to get back into the routine of life,” she said. “The experience took something away from me, and I’m still trying to measure that. I don’t know what that is, except that something’s missing now.”
I wanted to get back into the routine of life.
— Betty Reid Soskin
She said she hid out in her home for several days after the attack, not showing her face so she would not be seen as a victim.
“There’s a role that vanity plays in all this,” she said, laughing. “I was living in dread of seeing someone showing me with a couple of black eyes on YouTube.”
Soskin’s attacker, who also stole electronics and jewelry, is still at large.
“I think I need him to remain in the shadows,” she said. “I’m almost afraid to find him.”
Soskin’s boss, Park Supt. Tom Leatherman, told NBC Bay Area that he had been contacted by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who said the White House would replace the coin.
In a 2015 interview with the Department of the Interior, Soskin said her great-grandmother was born into slavery in 1846 and lived to be 102. She died when Soskin was 27.
“I was a grown woman having met my slave ancestor,” she said.
She said in the interview that her tours at Rosie the Riveter Park were booked up two months in advance. She said she works five days a week, working “from memory.”
Soskin said she wears her uniform at all times “because when I’m on the streets or on an escalator or elevator, I am making every little girl of color aware of a career choice she may not have known she had.
“That’s important. The pride is evident in their eyes, and the opportunities get announced very subtly to those who’ve lived outside the circle of full acceptance,” Soskin said.
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