RICHMOND, Calif. — A 92-year-old Northern California woman who is the nation’s oldest full-time national park ranger said Friday she’s surprised that she has joined the ranks of those currently out of work due to the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.
Even after four days, Betty Reid Soskin, who works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., said she’s still devastated after being furloughed earlier this week.
A sign on the door that read “Shutdown” at the visitor’s center, said it all.
“At 92, I am very sensitive to the passage of time. We learned about the furlough gradually,” Soskin said. “When it came at midnight (on) October 1, it seemed like a major interruption in my life because I don’t have time and these young folks were wasting my time, precious time.”
The shutdown began Monday at midnight after Republicans demanded the defunding of the nation’s new health insurance system in exchange for providing essential federal funding. The White House and Democrats refused.
After a life in public service, Soskin became a park ranger seven years ago where she leads tours at the historical California park and museum that honors the women who worked in factories during wartime. But that all changed this week.
“It was like hitting a wall to come out from under my hat and back into civvies,” Soskin said.
Now, she’s idle, waiting on that call to come back to the job she says keeps her going. She said she feels uncertain when she watches the developments between lawmakers in the Nation’s Capital unfold on television.
“There are times when I feel like the only grown-up in the room. It’s a little disconcerting to feel like no one’s in charge. That’s the feeling I have when I watch the news,” Soskin said. “There are not enough wiser heads in Washington to determine where we should go. That uncertainty is unnerving.”
The National Park Service confirms that Soskin is the oldest full-time park ranger. At 93, Lyle Ruterbories, who works at Glacier National Park in Kintla Lake, Mont., near the U.S. and Canadian border, is the oldest seasonal ranger the park service is aware of, park service spokesman Jeff Olson said earlier this week.
Standing by a waterfront in Richmond, Calif., Soskin said Friday she hopes the furlough will end before Oct. 12th. That’s when the park is set to host its annual Home Front Festival which she has been working on for months.
“I think that enough of the country has suffered from this so that there will be at least some resolution and my work can go on ... before I forget how to tie my own shoes,” said Soskin, laughing.