Before I start talking about this particular Park Service ranger, I wanted to put it in context of my own relationship with the Park Service. I have been a fan of the Park Service for a very, very long time, at least since I was a boy. And for about a decade in my twenties and early thirties I was a volunteer for them at Stones River National Battlefield (in fact, you can occasionally still see a photo of me in my Union Army Civil War uniform in old park literature) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Occasionally I also did programs at other Civil War battlefields and sites. I miss it, frankly. Perhaps one day I will be in a position to do that sort of volunteer work again.
Anyway, I still read a lot about things going on with the Park Service and I generally try to keep up with things going on with NPS. Like any organization, NPS has its celebrities. I had the privilege of meeting one of them, Civil War historian Ed Bearss, now retired, on several occasions. Ed is a warm, funny, extremely intelligent and knowledgeable guy with an incredible work ethic. And in that regard I am reminded of him by Betty Reid Soskin, another NPS celebrity. Betty is an extraordinary woman who also happens to be the oldest serving U.S. Park Service Ranger. She currently works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, California. In fact, Betty was absolutely instrumental in the creation of that historic park. And since she herself lived through the events preserved at the site, she has her own unique and fascinating stories to tell about that time in our history, including what it was like to be a woman of color in that segregated era.
Last year she lit the National Christmas Tree and got to meet President Barack Obama, who gave her a special commemorative coin as a souvenir and gift. At the ceremony, she carried a photograph of her great-grandmother, who was born a slave in 1846 and died in 1948 at the age of 102. She carried the same photograph in her pocket in 2009, when she witnessed President Obama’s inauguration.
AND… she’s an avid blogger. She’s that awesome.
Well, something terrible happened to her this past Monday. She was beaten and robbed in her own home there in Richmond. And one of the things the a**hole thief took from her was the coin the President gave her.
What kind of person does that? Who attacks a 94-year-old woman? How utterly depraved and/or desperate do you have to be to do that? God, I hope the police catch whoever did this to her. And the President has already said that he will replace the coin.
Luckily, she seems to be recovering. But if you want to help her, the Rosie the Riveter Trust has organized a fund to help Betty out with her expenses while she recovers. And being the awesome person she is, Betty has already said that any excess funds will be used for a special documentary film history project about her life.
Glad you are still with us, Betty, and from the East Coast, we all wish you the very best and hope you get well soon. We love you.