When Larry Littleton set his mind on something, he dedicated himself to it completely.
He led the effort to get the city of Galt incorporated. He found instruments for students to play in the Galt High School band. He worked with Lodi Memorial Hospital to build a clinic in Galt. And he earned the trust of many residents along the way.
“I think the outstanding feature of his life, in and around Galt, is that he became an example for so many others. He never gave up,” resident Orvell Fletcher said.
Littleton died on Oct. 6 at the age of 96. He is considered one of the elder statesman of Galt and was involved in many community organizations.
One of his main achievements was wrestling control away from Sacramento County and making Galt its own city in 1946. He then served on the city’s first council for four years, until he stepped down because of teaching demands.
He was born in 1914 and grew up in Stockton. He graduated from College of the Pacific, which is now called the University of the Pacific. He started his 40-year career at Galt High in 1937 as a music teacher making $1,500 a year.
As superintendent, Fletcher named Littleton vice principal in 1956 and Galt High principal in 1963. Fletcher said he recognized his leadership potential.
“He never became belligerent and upset with kids. He talked with them on their level and said how they can improve. He replaced their attitudes with ones that are fruitful,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher and Littleton modernized education at Galt High. They focused on updating the curriculum and encouraging students to participate in extracurricular activities, like the hunting and fishing club. Littleton also brought in accomplished college musicians to play with his students.
Out of about 700 students at Galt High, 60 played in the band. When students couldn’t afford instruments, Littleton always seemed to get one donated, Fletcher said.
“He was a person who always knew a great number of people in the community. He knew how to get things done right away. He was truly a leader,” Fletcher said.
Littleton’s wife often played piano during the school’s concerts and his three children all played in the band, his daughter, Frances Brodersen, said. The family had a graveside service this week and about 15 of his former students unexpectedly showed up and discussed their memories of Littleton.
“I don’t think that there was one person who didn’t like him,” Brodersen said. “The kids loved my dad, and that was all there was to it.”
He also gave back to the community by serving as a volunteer firefighter. The family lived across the street from the fire department when Brodersen was a child.
“In the middle of the night, the whistles would go off and he’d drop everything and go over there and get on the truck,” Brodersen said.
After retiring in 1977, Littleton continued serving. He started volunteering on the Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation Board in 1984 and remained active for 22 years, said Rob Wooton, the vice president of fund development.
Littleton focused on getting a clinic in Galt, and in 1996, one opened on Civic Drive. Even in his later years, he would get rides to the board meetings.
“No matter what shape he was in, he always had a good thing to say. He was quick to compliment, which means a lot, and give credit where it is due,” said Donna Shaw, chair of the foundation.
A community center on Civic Drive was named after him in 1996 to recognize his contributions.
He was married for 73 years to Frances, who died in 2009. The two met when Littleton passed some college girls in his car. He stopped, and Frances sat on the hood smoking a cigarette. That night he told her he was going to marry her, Brodersen said.
The family enjoyed trips to Lake Tahoe with all the grandkids, and Littleton loved playing golf.
Even up to the end, Littleton was alert and he would often reminisce with Fletcher about their time working at Galt High. Though Fletcher was only two years younger, Littleton always called him son.
“We are two guys who thought alike, acted alike and had immense respect for each other. Right now, it’s hard for me to adjust to his passing,” Fletcher said.
Littleton is survived by two of his children: Frances Brodersen and Patricia Mintun-Bont. His son, Gerald Littleton, preceded him in death. His family also includes seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
Memorial services are scheduled for Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Littleton Community Center in Galt. Galt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Memorial contributions can be made to the Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation, Inc., 845 S. Fairmont Avenue, Suite 3, Lodi, CA 95240.