Gerald W. Haslam
March 16, 1937 - April 13, 2021
Penngrove, California - Gerry Haslam (www.geraldhaslam.com
) 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. www.pcf.org