Gerald W. Haslam
1937 - 2021
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Gerald W. Haslam
March 16, 1937 - April 13, 2021
Penngrove, California - Gerry Haslam ( was born in Bakersfield, Calif., in 1937 and raised in a multi-ethnic, blue-collar household in Oildale, just on the outskirts of Bakersfield (a classmate of singer Merle Haggard). He married Janice Eillen Pettichord in 1961, and they departed for college in the Bay Area, where they became a team. "Jan was not only my love, she also became my editor and dearest pal."
He taught in Sonoma State University's English Department for 30 years before retiring in 1997, then teaching part-time 15 more years at the University of San Francisco's Fromm Institute. He originally became a professor, he said, to support his writing habit. He authored 21 books and edited eight others, all set in California or the larger West, but most in the San Joaquin Valley.
In volumes such as Coming of Age in California, The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland, The Other California, That Constant Coyote, Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California, Straight White Male, Grace Period, In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S.I. Hayakawa, Okies, and Haslam's Valley, as well as literally hundreds of essays, op-ed's, and short stories, he established himself as a significant interpreter of his native state. Critic David Robertson labeled him "the quintessential California writer." Haslam's publications garnered a wide range of honors.
Haslam's academic work won him a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in 1986, a fellowship from the California Arts council in 1989, a Friends of the University Library Faculty Achievement Award at SSU in 1992, and he was named a Laureate of the San Francisco Public Library in 1998. He won, as well, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association in 1999, a Carey McWilliams Award from the California Studies Association in 2001, a Sequoia – Giant of the Valley Award from The Great Valley Center in 2003, and a Certificate of Commendation from the California Arts Council in 2004.
He also served as President of the Western Literature Association, as well as board member. He served, too, on the boards of the Yosemite Association, the Multi-Cultural Institute, the California Studies Association, and the Petaluma Youth Soccer League.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janice; their three sons Fred (Kathy), Carlos (Siobhan), and Garth; daughters Alexandra (Greg Russell) and Simone (Chris Sawyer), as well as eight grandsons: Loki, Ronan, Briar, Ingram, and Max Haslam, William and Zachary Russell, and Rupert Sawyer; plus six granddaughters: Charlotte, Agatha, Deirdre, Ophelia, and Sabrina Haslam, and Lita Russell. He adored all of them and called them the great gifts of his later life.
Haslam donated his body to a research center, but his life will be celebrated by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. James Church in Petaluma in summer 2021. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

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Published in & from Apr. 18 to Apr. 24, 2021.
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7 entries
April 28, 2021
I remember Gerry from my second tour of learning at Sonoma State, also when I was the first Sports Information Director for SSU (1979-81). We interacted in my role as a quasi-journalist and his as a writer. He always had the greatest factual tales of the [Central] Valley and was sometimes referred to as the chronicler of the Okies.

He will be greatly missed.
Sheldon Dunn
April 27, 2021
I took a linguistics class from Gerry in 1981. When he called my name, he said “ Mosconi? Any relationship to Monk? Like Gerry I was born and bred in Bakersfield. Turns out my uncle Marv was his football coach ( and Merle’s in high school. I never knew my uncles nickname was Monk ( due to his tonsured bald spot. When I told my uncle about taking a class from Gerry... his response was... Smart kid.. good player... but Merle was better. Gerry loved that. His class was one of the hardest subjects I strived to master.. but as a teacher he was lively and hilarious. His books about the Central Valley remain some of my favorites.
April 23, 2021
Gerry and I were friends for 54 years beginning when we both taught at Sonoma State. He was amazingly talented, committed to his art and to his teaching, but also committed to the Valley he loved and to social justice. I last heard from him on March 25th in a letter that was both upbeat (about his family) and accepting (about his health). I have a box of letters from him saved over the years that I treasure now more than ever. He was one of a kind, and I was blessed to have been his friend.
Gary Sposito
April 22, 2021
I took several classes from Gerry Haslam in the late 70’s. He was a superior teacher, whether writer first and teacher second, there was absolutely nothing second rate about his classes. He was a good man, warm and compassionate.
May flights of angels carry thee to thy rest.
Joan McCue
April 21, 2021
We enjoyed frequent visits with Gerry and Jan this year, masked but still laughing, in the oak-studded outdoors. Really grateful to have spent the hours together, and enjoy the many stories Gerry shared. We'll miss his presence in Penngrove. Anthony took this photo last June. We're holding the family in our hearts.
Lyndi Brown & Anthony Tusler
April 21, 2021
Gerry was a wonderful man and teacher. My grandfather, Hector Lee, loved to sit and talk with him about California and the stories they shared. I was privileged to take several courses from him during my time at SSU and remember several times passing by his office and seeing Grandpa there talking and laughing with him. I know he will be greatly missed. Our family is happy to make a donation in his honor. Sincerly, Cathy (Lee) Gascon
Cathy Gascon
April 20, 2021
Was fortunate to have taken one of Mr. Haslam's classes at what was then Sonoma State College, on the "Okies." A real nice person he was the gateway to me getting deeper into California history. The book that he did "The History Of Country Music In California is a wonderful resource..

Mark Hogan
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