94-year-old woman recently honored by Obama plans to remain in Richmond home after brutal attack

ByElissa Harrington KGO logo
Friday, July 1, 2016
94-year-old plans to remain in Richmond home after brutal attack
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Richmond police are asking the public to help with any information about an attack on one of their most well-known residents. The 94-year-old woman, who was recently honored by President Obama, was viciously attacked and lost a prized possession.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- Richmond police are on the lookout for a man who attacked and robbed on one of the city's most well-known residents. Oficials say the man punched Betty Reid Soskin in the face and got away with several valuable items jewelry, electronics, and a prized possession.

The intruder may not have known his victim, but President Barack Obama does. He gave 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin a special coin to honor her as the nation's oldest park ranger.

"That is her most cherished item," said Lt. Felix Tan. "It's priceless and we want it back."

President Barack Obama gave 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin this special coin to honor her status as the oldest park ranger in the United States.

According to Tan, Soskin was asleep when around midnight Monday someone broke in to her Hilltop-area townhome. That attacker forced entry through a sliding glass door on the second floor.

Soskin tried calling 911, but the intruder grabbed her phone and beat her.

"He continued with his assault and started to punch the victim, who is 94 years old," said Tan. "Punch her several times in the face. She lost her balance and fell to the floor."

Soskin eventually crawled away and hid in her bathroom. Police don't know if she was targeted or if this was random.

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When asked on Thursday how she's doing, Betty told us, "I'm still shaken."

Police say she is traumatized both physically and emotionally.

The city's mayor, Tom Butt, has known Soskin for 30 years.

"You know Betty, they call her a national treasure, they call her an icon, she's clearly the most famous person in Richmond," he said. "So when something like this happens to her, the whole community can't quit talking about it."

Soskin leads tours at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Historical Park. Friends say even though she suffered black eyes and a split lip, she'll soon be back at work and continuing to live her life.

"So she hasn't left her home and she plans to not and she plans to still live alone and be able to reclaim that space as her own," said Tom Leatherman with the National Park Service.

White House officials say they'll send Soskin another presidential coin and police are asking the public to be on the lookout for someone trying to sell the original.

RELATED: Oldest park ranger in US from East Bay featured in ABC7 special

It was dark, so Soskin was not able to give police a good description of her attacker.

He's described as 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, slender or medium build, and early to mid-20s.

ABC7 did an in-depth profile on Soskin back in 2013. She told us that in her almost century of life, she's been no stranger to threats and violence.

During World War II, she worked as a clerk for the all-African American Boilermakers Union A36.

This undated image shows members of the all-African American Boilermakers Union A36.
Betty Reid Soskin

Soskin spoke with us about what it was like to be the first African American family to live in Walnut Creek.

When she and her husband lived there with their children, she says a cross was burned on their lawn.

"We began to receive threatening letters saying if we dared to step," she said. "That they would burn it. It was absolutely devastating."

This undated image shows Betty Reid Soskin and her family in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Betty Reid Soskin

Soskin refused to give up her home at that time. Now, despite the attack this week, she says she's determined to stay in Richmond and reclaim her home.

Click here to make a donation to Soskin to replace the other items that were stolen from her.

If you'd like to send her well wishes, here is where you can send cards and letters:

1414 Harbour Way South
Richmond, CA 94804