Genevieve Paras Repp, a prominent Sacramento lawyer who blazed trails for women in professions, died Sunday of complications related to chronic health problems, her family said. She was 86.
Until last year, Mrs. Repp practiced family law for almost four decades with her partner and sister, Helen Paras. She spent more than 15 years as a pro tem family law judge in Sacramento Superior Court and was honored for volunteering many hours of pro bono legal service in the community.
Raised by Greek immigrants, she celebrated traditional values while pursuing modern opportunities for women. She graduated from University of Southern California after World War II with plans to be a dentist but was thwarted when a dental school official informed her that positions were reserved for men.
“The dean told her, ‘You have no right to take the place of a returning GI in this class,’” said her grandson Daniel. “He said, ‘You’re a very pretty woman. You’ll end up getting married and having kids and never have to work.’ She felt rejected.”
Instead, Mrs. Repp studied to be a dental hygienist and met her husband at USC. She married Donald L. Repp, raised two children in Sacramento and cleaned teeth for more than 15 years before deciding she wanted more in life.
“She was a woman of strength and intelligence,” said her daughter Deborah. “She knew that she had a lot more to give to people and that she could do as well as men.”
Mrs. Repp applied to law school with her sister, a teacher at David Lubin Elementary School in Sacramento. They joined three other women and 300 men in night classes at McGeorge School of Law. Besides representing their gender, the sisters carried an additional burden as cousins of George Paras, a prominent state appellate justice.
“We overprepared for every class,” Helen Paras said. “When Genny was called on to talk about a case, she rattled on and on and had all these points and authorities just for the footnotes.”
Unhappy with grades they received in a constitutional law class taught by Professor Anthony Kennedy, the sisters transferred to Humphreys College of Law in Stockton. Mrs. Repp graduated in 1974, passed the state bar exam and opened Paras Repp Law Firm with her sister.
“If someone came in for a divorce had children, she would and ask if there was anything that could be done to save the marriage,” Helen Paras said. “She was always concerned that the children would grow up happy and well.”
Besides running their practice, the women donated hundreds of hours of free legal help to low-income clients and the Assembly of God church. The sisters were active members of the Voluntary Legal Services Program, a pro-bono service, which honored them in 2001 for volunteering many hours in family law and probate clinics.
The second of three daughters, Genevieve Paras was born July 24, 1927, in Sacramento to parents who were leaders in the Greek community. Her father, Stelios Paras, co-owned the Union Hotel at Second and K streets with relatives. Her mother, Caliope, raised the girls as a widow after her husband died during the Great Depression.
“They were salt of the earth people,” Deborah Repp said. “They came over and acquired a lot, but they worked hard all their lives. And family was everything.”
Mrs. Repp was active in the Greek community as a member of the Philoptochos Society, the American Hellenic Professional Society and the Daughters of Penelope. She was a modest woman who emphasized integrity, hard work and family.
“She was a very humble woman,” her daughter said. “She was very proper. She never even owned a pair of pants.”
Mrs. Repp’s husband of 56 years, a mechanical engineer, died in 2008. Besides her sister, daughter and grandson, she is survived by a son, Stephen.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 600 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.