STOCKTON -- When Ann Chargin became the first public defender and woman to be appointed to the bench in San Joaquin County in 1975, she says the odds were stacked against her.
“There have been women lawyers for decades but in Stockton there weren’t many and so it was difficult to break in as a woman,” she said.
But she was idealistic and determined to make a difference.
“I felt that behind those problems was a human being and sometimes, sometimes dropping the right word at the right time can make a difference in their lives,” Chargin told FOX40.
Four years later, her path would cross with then 18-year-old Steve Walker -- who is now the undersheriff of San Joaquin County.
“I wasn’t that favorable of cops when I was a kid,” he said. “I got in a little bit of trouble.”
One evening, that bit of trouble led to a fight in public, which landed him in jail. Eventually, he stood before the Honorable Ann Chargin.
“She was very intimidating on the bench,” Walker said.
Walker pleaded no contest and was sentenced to a 90-day suspension, probation, a fine and a lecture.
“Very harsh for what I had done, but I think she knew what she was doing,” Walker told FOX40.
The punishment and her words were enough to keep Walker on the straight and narrow. He would later join the Navy, then the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
“I learned discipline, I got a good education, and eventually it pointed me in the direction of law enforcement,” he said.
For 40 years, Walker says he shared that story with everyone else but Chargin -- that is until a recent chance encounter.
“As we walked by the table one lady asked me, ‘Excuse me, can I ask you what the pink patch was for?’” Walker said.
Chargin says Walker’s breast cancer awareness patch caught her eye.
“And so I said, ‘What’s the pink?’” Chargin said.
After a quick exchange of names, the undersheriff realized who she was and shared with her the impact she had on his life.
“And I’m very happy I got to see her 40 years later and say thank you,” Walker said.
Chargin, now 96 and enjoying retirement, says she doesn’t remember meeting Walker 40 years ago.
“I have no recollection of that,” Chargin said. “That was 1979 and you can imagine the thousands of people that I saw in that situation.”
But she at least knows now who he is and how she helped shape his life.
“What she did for me was very life-changing and very positive,” Walker said. “And I just want to tell you, I appreciate it.”