Gerald Locklin, a legendary local teacher, writer and poet who helped shape the literary landscape of Southern California for decades and was friends with the better-known Charles Bukowski, died from coronavirus-related complications Sunday, Jan. 17, said his son, Zachary Locklin. He was 79.

Locklin had been living in the Sunrise Assisted Living facility in Huntington Beach since March. When he tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, he was taken to Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, where he died, his son said.

The literary figure taught writing at Cal State Long Beach for 42 years, but was also a prolific writer himself. He published more than 3,000 poems, works of fiction, reviews and articles that appeared in periodicals. He also wrote several books, including “Charles Bukowski: A Sure Bet,” a memoir of his friendship with Bukowski, one of Los Angeles’ premier literary figures. At one time, Bukowski, who spend his later years living in San Pedro, called Locklin “one of the great undiscovered talents of our time.”

Locklin was known for his direct, straight-forward style of writing, with humor and playfulness and emphasis on the human condition. But, above all else, his encouragement of young people and their writing talent is what Long Beach literary leaders were talking about Monday.

Locklin was “a phenomenal teacher who influenced thousands of students, many of whom went on to teaching careers of their own because of his inspiration and motivation,” said Eileen Klink, chair of the English department at Cal State Long Beach for 22 years.

“Gerry was just an exciting and unbelievable person who gave of himself to his students,” Klink added. “He was the poet laureate of Long Beach. We always knew we were in the presence of greatness when we were with him. He was known not only in Southern California but nationally and internationally.”

Klink said Charles Webb, a poet and longtime friend of Locklin’s, called her when he heard Locklin had died and told her “a giant has passed.”

Jeffery Epley, a professor of English at Long Beach City College, was one of Locklin’s students who followed him into teaching.

“If it hadn’t been for Professor Locklin, I don’t think I would ever have become a writer or teacher,” Epley said. “He always took time to listen to me and was always supportive. He was like a father figure to me.”

Dave and Tricia Cherin were both students of Locklin in the ’60s and have been friends for 50 years.

“I remember walking into his introduction to literature class in 1967 and just being mesmerized by his teaching manner,” Tricia Cherin said. “In 50 minutes, he covered the whole of English literature, from Beowulf through all the centuries to modernism. Gerry said once you got that out of the way, you could go to the bar! I walked down the hill and declared myself an English major.”

She also noted that she met Dave Cherin, her future husband, in one of Locklin’s classes. Tricia Cherin is past president of the Emeritus Faculty Association at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Dave Cherin is founding director of the social work program at Cal State Fullerton.

Locklin was born on Feb. 17, 1941, in Rochester, New York, to Ivan and Esther Locklin. In an interview in Rusty Truck Press in 2010, Locklin said his mother was a first grade teacher who taught him to read and write before he started kindergarten. Locklin said he was born with limited talents.

“I can’t draw a straight line or change a lightbulb, but I can read and write and teach,” he said. “I was born to write and born to teach.”

Locklin received a bachelor’s degree from St. John Fisher College in 1961, a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in 1963 and a doctorate from there a year later.

He embarked on his teaching career as an instructor at Cal State Los Angeles before moving to Cal State Long Beach in 1965.

Zachary Locklin, who is following in his father’s footsteps as an English professor at Cal State Long Beach, said his dad “was an inspiration and mentor to me my whole life.”

“He was always so supportive. The heart of his life was teaching,” he said. “He said a lot of writers say they teach so they can write. He said just the opposite. He said he wrote so he could teach.”

Zachary Locklin also talked about two of his father’s better-known poems.

In one, “The Iceberg Theory,” Gerald Locklin writes about how all food critics hate iceberg lettuce because it isn’t fancy enough.

“I guess the problem is it’s just too common for them,” he wrote.

“At any rate, I really enjoy a salad with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce, the more the merrier,” he added, “and the poems I enjoy are those I don’t have to pretend that I’m enjoying.”

Zachary Locklin also talked about his dad’s poem “Poop.”