Eye on the East Bay: Furloughed Richmond park ranger becomes global sensation
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 10/20/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT | Updated: 114 min. ago
a star is born: Richmond's hottest star ascended to global prominence in recent weeks with a whirlwind tour of cable news, talk shows and network media. Who is the resident du jour, whose meteoric rise catapulted her from local icon to arguably the most famous resident of Richmond? Betty Reid Soskin, a 92-year-old National Park Ranger, prolific blogger and delightful interviewee with charisma to spare.
The snowball was set in motion Oct. 5, when an Associated Press dispatch about Soskin, the nation's oldest full-time national-park ranger, raced across the globe and brought to millions the story linking gridlock in Washington, D.C., to a faithful public servant furloughed from the job she loves.
"The magic of the Internet," Soskin wrote on her Facebook page that day. "Received a lovely message from Ireland; from a Patrick Ryan who'd seen the AP story that has run throughout the world, apparently. ... What a time to be alive!"
From there, news crews from around the world bombarded Soskin's phone, email, Facebook page and even her front door ("How do these people get my phone number?"). For the week, at least, she was arguably the world's hottest human interest story related to the government shutdown.
She met the maelstrom with typical equanimity.
"I really DO need to arrange for that humility transplant," Soskin wrote on Facebook. "Anybody know a good nun who might rise to the occasion?"
Throughout the process, which saw Soskin regale in conversations with Anderson Cooper, Arsenio Hall and others, the park ranger and Bay Area historian regularly shared her musings and doubts with her growing throng of social media followers. When in doubt, she turned to her friends.
"Hey People; I'd like some serious advice. ... So far this public attention has been relatively enjoyable, and has served to bring attention to my work ... (but) I could quickly turn into a 'cartoon,' if we're not careful. How far should I ride this bull?" Soskin wrote Oct. 10.
Dozens of comments poured in, urging her on. Soskin plunged forward.
As the days grinded on, Soskin interspersed her busy media schedule with far-reaching thoughts, peppering her Facebook page with exuberance ("How 'bout creating a Flash Mob?") vulnerability ("I'm feeling 92") and bewilderment ("There were moments when I really did feel like Alice down the rabbit hole.").
Through it all, Soskin could always count on her legions of supporters.
"Greetings from your fans at Stanford who appreciate your standing up for public history and public heritage," Kathleen Coll posted on Soskin's page Monday.