Ninety-four-year-old Betty Reid Soskin, who is America’s oldest park ranger and the recipient of a presidential honor, was brutally attacked at her Richmond home on Monday night, according to the LA Times.
Soskin, a beloved of the local community, leads tours at the Rosie the Riveter/WW II Home Front National Historic Park, and provides a detailed history of the women who worked in factories during war time. Last year in December, Soskin was recognized as the oldest national park ranger serving in the United States, for which she received a commemorative coin by President Obama at the national tree-lighting ceremony.
Late on Monday night, however, a man broke into her home with the intention of robbing Soskin, police said. When Betty attempted to retrieve her cell phone for help, the intruder wrestled it away before punching her several times, knocking her to the floor, reports East Bay Times.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” Soskin told KTVU-TV.
Then, the attacker dragged the 94-year-old from her bedroom and into the hallway, where he punched her repeatedly. But, the fighter that she is, Betty Soskin managed to grab the intruder’s groin, before crawling away and locking herself in the bathroom. Fearful that he might break into the bathroom, too, Soskin plugged in an iron and prepared herself to strike the intruder and brand him.
When she came out, she found that some of her most precious belongings were gone, including the commemorative coin she had received from the President last December. Among other things missing were Betty’s iPad, iPod, a laptop, and some jewelry.
Betty sustained several bruises but declined to be taken to the hospital. She is currently recuperating at her home, her colleagues told reporters.
“Her amazingly strong spirit is a great part of who she is,” the park said.
Tom Leatherman, a National Park Service superintendent and Soskin’s boss, said that the whole community is suffering in the wake of the brutal attack on Betty Reid Soskin.
“We’re all very emotional. We are shocked, we’re angry, we’re in disbelief. It’s hard to believe that it was a random attack. She has obviously been in the news a lot and has gotten a lot of attention.”
Ever since the attack, Soskin has been receiving many well-wishers. Richmond residents have stopped at her home to inquire about her condition, with many offering help to replace the stolen items, while Leatherman said that he had been receiving calls from park rangers all over the country, expressing their solidarity with the nonagenarian.
“Betty Reid Soskin is a landmark to humanity,” one Richmond resident wrote on Facebook.
“Few choose to embody grace and ease so consistently, so specifically to the purpose of being a gift to society.”
A call had been underway on social media to replace the commemorative coin she received from the President, and the White House made sure that Soskin didn’t miss it for long.
Police have few leads at the moment, but officials are hoping somebody with information would be willing to assist with the investigation.
“We’re hoping if there are any witnesses who may have seen someone running from the area or were approached by someone who wanted to sell the coin or exchange it, that they call us immediately,” said Lt. Felix Tan, a spokesman with the Richmond Police Department.
While it is heartwarming to see the outpouring of solidarity after Soskin was attacked, one Richmond resident summed up the brutal actions of the home intruder perfectly when he wrote the following on his Facebook Page.
“Park Ranger Betty Soskin is arguably Richmond’s most famous resident, and an assault on her is an assault on us all,” he wrote.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]