Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that features accomplished Galt High School and Liberty Ranch High School graduates. If you are interested in being considered as part of this series or you know a GHS or LRHS graduate with notable accomplishments, career or otherwise, please email Faith Lewis at email@example.com or Bonnie Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past 150 years, Galt has grown from a small cluster of farms and ranches into the suburban hub it is today. Few people have witnessed as many of those changes firsthand as Lillian “Dit” Barsetti Jenks. Born in 1920, Jenks graduated from Galt High School in 1937 and enjoyed a successful law career before retiring at 85.
Jenks’ parents emigrated from Switzerland in the early 1900s, married in San Francisco and moved to the Galt area in 1912. Her father was a dairyman, and her mother handled the books and managed the household. Jenks, along with her older sister Emily and brother Henry, had what she considered a typical childhood for country kids. She helped with chores on the farm and came up with schemes like how she and Henry might be able to sell skunk skins (only later realizing that wasn’t a feasible endeavor on account of the fact that skunks stink).
“We went to the one-room school houses of Elliott and Telegraph Grammar schools; then, when they closed, we went to Oak View,” Jenks recalled. “We would mostly walk to school, but occasionally get a ride. Some children actually rode a horse to school.”
At Galt High School, Jenks enjoyed her history and singing classes, but didn’t like home economics. Outside the classroom, she was an avid athlete and played softball, baseball and basketball.
And her love of sports didn’t end when she graduated from GHS in 1937.
“After high school, I played on a traveling softball team out of Sacramento called Cal West,” she said. “I was later inducted into the All State Women’s Softball Hall of Fame.”
Having graduated high school at 17 years old, Jenks was hired as a secretary at the State Capitol in Sacramento. She acquired a love of golf and met her future husband, Fred Jenks, there. The couple married just as World War II was starting. During the war, they moved around the U.S. as Fred, a lead navigator in the Air Force, was stationed at various Air Force bases and eventually deployed overseas.
After the war ended, they moved to San Francisco and Jenks worked as a secretary for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. The couple had their son, Bart, and eventually made their way back to Sacramento where Jenks began working for a large law firm and promoted to office manager. She was encouraged to go to law school and began to study at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento in the early 1960s.
“I never was treated differently because I was a woman. I guess it came from being self-confident,” she said. “I think sports helped with that and the competition of sports gives you an edge.”
During her career, her typical cases were personal injury cases. Jenks recalled that she even had one case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. She practiced until the early 2000s and continued to do mediation for some time after that.
“Success to me is working hard and you can achieve anything. Having goals in mind with good family support kept me on course,” Jenks said.
Jenks’ son followed in her footsteps, becoming an attorney and eventually retiring as California Deputy Attorney General. Jenks has two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.