Our Neighbors: Busy times for National Park Service in Richmond
By Chris Treadway
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 09/25/2010 08:00:00 PM PDT
Richmond's own Betty Reid Soskin was good-humored when asked about announcing her birthday in the newspaper.
"I don't know if you want to do that," she said Thursday at work at the National Park Service offices on Macdonald Avenue. "It seems like they're coming every six weeks."
In reality, the oldest ranger in the National Park Service -- Soskin turned 89 on Wednesday -- has no problem disclosing her age. "I wear it like a badge," Soskin said. "It's amazing I've lived so long."
The birthday was just part of a busy week for Soskin and her colleagues at the local park service unit, which oversees the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, John Muir National Historic Site and Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.
The park service is heavily involved with the city and the chamber of commerce in planning the annual Home Front Festival next Saturday at the Craneway Pavilion and historic Kaiser Shipyard No. 3, home of the SS Red Oak Victory (homefrontfestival.com).
Soskin and four other surviving Rosies joined park service officials on the field at AT&T Park in San Francisco for a pre-game ceremony in their honor before the Giants-Dodgers game Sept. 16.
The ceremony "was impressive," Soskin said, and included a tribute on the video board in center field. The ceremony was a prelude to the festival and plans for a new visitor education center and interactive museum adjacent to the Craneway Pavilion that are being finalized, but are not quite done.
"We are tantalizingly close," was how Martha Lee, general superintendent of the East Bay park service unit, described the prolonged visitor center negotiations. "We are optimistic."
Lee, meanwhile, is leaving the administrative office in Richmond to go to a new assignment at the National Park Service Regional Office in Oakland overseeing public use in the Pacific West region. Colleagues gave her a farewell party Wednesday.
"It's hard to leave," Lee said. "I love the parks I have been managing the last five years. Rosie the Riveter has been a particular joy, working with the people in Richmond. There's great potential here."
Deputy Superintendent Tom Leatherman will assume Lee's duties until a replacement superintendent is selected.