Stories

Janet and George Gastil: The Legacy Continues

January 24, 2017

By Mimi Pollack

George (left) and Janet

George (left) and Janet

 

At 80 years old, Janet Gastil has worn many hats and is a true renaissance woman. She has been a wife and mother, teacher, musician, realtor, and politician to name her most important roles.

Janet Manley Gastil was born in 1936 in Long Island, New York, but moved to San Diego in 1946 when she was 10 years old. Like her mother, Gastil suffered from asthma, so going west improved their health. Both of Janet’s parents were attorneys and active in social causes which helped to shape their only child.

A student prodigy, Gastil received her BA in English from SDSU at 19 years old. She was awarded a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to Duke University where she earned her master’s at 20. She returned to San Diego and continued her graduate studies at UCLA from 1957 to 1959.

At UCLA, she worked as a teacher’s assistant and was able to reconnect with an old family friend, Gordon Gastil, a geology professor, eight years her senior. That connection grew romantic, and nine months later, despite their parents’ objections over the age difference, they got married. Their marriage lasted 54 years and produced four children.

The couple moved back to San Diego in 1959 after their first child was born. Gordon began his renowned 35 year career in geology as a professor and mentor to many at SDSU. Janet began teaching English at  San Diego City College, but her stubborn, independent streak prevailed, and she quit after one year when she had a conflict with the administration over academic freedom.

Janet left teaching and focused on raising her children. The Gastils moved to La Mesa in 1963, and in 1966 designed and built an adobe house in the old Californio style where they lived until Gordon passed away in 2012. A feminist, who also loyally stood by her husband’s side, she was his caregiver in his last years.

In 1968, the couple became involved in politics. Gordon who went on to run for congress in 1976 with Janet serving as his campaign manager. In 1977, she was elected to the school board of the La Mesa School District where she served for 14 years. In 1992 and in 1994, she ran for U.S. Congress against Duncan Hunter. Although she lost both times, she gave Hunter a run for his money in the 1992 campaign. In 1996, she ran for state assembly again Steve Baldwin.

Janet retired from running for public office after that, but still served as the president of two different Democratic Clubs as well as serving on the executive board of the California Democratic Party in 2013. She also actively campaigned for her son, George, in his 2016 bid for mayor of Lemon Grove, which he narrowly lost.

This Renaissance woman also had a successful real estate business for 30 years. She had a quaker business philosophy in running her company as she believed in environmental preservation, among other things.

Indeed, it hard to describe all that this lively woman has done, but she still goes through life with determination, boundless energy, and a twinkle in her eye.

The apple does not fall far from the tree and her son, George Gastil, 53, has his mother’s energy and sense of justice. In addition, as a middle child, he has an easygoing way about him that likes to resolve conflict. George has followed in his parents’ footsteps in wanting to be of public service since he was young.

George graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a master’s degree in history. He returned to San Diego to become a teacher, and has worked as an adjunct professor at many community colleges throughout San Diego County.

George’s easy way with people was put to good use when he began writing a weekly column about public events in Lemon Grove for the Daily Californian in 1993.  In 1994, he moved to Lemon Grove with his family and ran for the school board, winning a seat in 1998. He served on the board for ten years and was the president in 2007. In 2008, he was elected to the Lemon Grove city council where he remained until 2016.

Furthermore, in 2002 George joined the staff of State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny. He served as the Senator’s local liaison for education, healthcare, human services, and labor issues. He worked for the senator for two and a half years. Like his multi-tasking mother, he served as the city’s representative to the East County Economic Development Council, and as the Lemon Grove representative to the Metropolitan Transit System until December 2016.

George is also a devoted family man. He has been married to his college sweetheart, also named Janet, for almost 32 years. She works for the Bonita branch of San Diego County Library. She previously worked as the Youth Services Librarian for the Lemon Grove branch. They live with their two cats.

George is a proud parent to his three sons. The eldest is married and works and the other two are off studying. When asked what he liked to do for fun, he replied that he liked to hike and travel with his sons.

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