Hampstead has lost one of its most elegant champions and ambassadors.

Ruth Gorb, the radio reporter and features writer who worked at the Ham & High for 20 glorious years, has died. She was 89, which was not something she would have liked broadcast.

She was born Ruth Lasky, the only child of Ike, a businessman and gifted linguist whose family came from Ukraine, and Faye, nee Cohen, from London’s East End.

She grew up in Muswell Hill but Ike sent Ruth and Faye to America during the war to escape the bombing. Returning to Muswell Hill, she became head girl of Tollington School in Grand Avenue, where she developed a lifelong gift for making friends.

Ham & High: Ruth Gorb worked at the Ham&High for 20 yearsRuth Gorb worked at the Ham&High for 20 years (Image: Courtesy of the family of Ruth Gorb)

Among them was Jenny Seiter, who remembers Ruth arriving at school with all the gloss and glamour of a New Yorker. They remained friends for 70 years.

“Jenny visited Ruth a few days before she died and they had the most terrific talk about their school trip to Paris in their teens which they spent being chatted up in cafes,“ said Ruth's daughter-in-law Liz Gorb.

Ruth studied English at UCL, where she met the dashing Peter Gorb at a party. Recently demobbed and reading history at Cambridge, he became the love of her life and they were inseparable until his death in 2013.

Ham & High: Ruth Gorb with husband Peter 'the love of her life'Ruth Gorb with husband Peter 'the love of her life' (Image: Courtesy of the family of Ruth Gorb)

After a brief move to Wales, the Gorbs returned to Hampstead, her favoured and natural habitat, in 1963. She never looked back. She wasn't a snob or unadventurous, she just felt, in the same way that Paul Newman remained faithful to Joanne Woodward because he saw no reason to go out for burgers when he had steak at home, that the best of life, art, news and gossip could be enjoyed on two adjoining pages of the London A-Z.

The then editor of the Ham & High, Gerry Isaaman, recruited her, fittingly, at a Hampstead dinner party. Her interviews were conducted within the bounds of Hampstead and Highgate, at a push, Crouch End, and her enviable cache of book reviewers, which included Hunter Davies, Melvyn Bragg, John Le Carre and Michael Foot, lived in the same postcodes.Ham & High: Former Ham&High editor Gerry Isaaman (right) offered Ruth a job during a Hampstead dinner partyFormer Ham&High editor Gerry Isaaman (right) offered Ruth a job during a Hampstead dinner party (Image: Courtesy of the family of Ruth Gorb)

The Ruth Gorb page was Hampstead's Desert Island Discs, you hadn't made it until she had glided through your door, admired your children, made a kind but telling assessment of your wallpaper, and gently cross-examined you on your latest venture.  

The novelist Amanda Craig agrees: “Ruth was an utterly delightful person – elegant, graceful, gracious and kind – and a very good journalist. It was always felt among North London writers that you’d 'arrived' when she interviewed you for the H&H.” 

“She was the most fantastic interviewer,” said Nigel Sutton, the Ham & High photographer who accompanied her on more jobs than he can remember. “Ruth always insisted that she interview people in their homes, because the moment she had stepped through their door she could take one look and know so much about them."  

She adored her job and served as a protective buffer between new reporters and the withering wrath of the subs by reminding them that words such as “local””, “famous” and worst of all “celeb” were banned.

"If they weren't local we wouldn't be writing about them, would we, darling?"

Brian Viner, now film critic at The Daily Mail, spent five years at the Ham & High in the 1990s and remembers Ruth’s nurturing wisdom with affection.

He said: “There were occasions when her page was Hampsteady almost to the point of parody: ‘It’s a sad summer table without a homemade pot of aioli’ is a line I’ve remembered for 30 years, but what an institution it was.”

Roger Blitz, another former Ham&High reporter, now on the Financial Times, said: “She took immense pride in the Ruth Gorb page but she wore the praise showered upon it with due modesty."

Lee Montague, a friend of 60 years, and Ruth's brother-in-law, described her as an astute and vibrant writer who, with Peter, formed the hub of Hampstead life. "She was genuinely interested in other people and this is what made her such a skilled reporter," he said.  

Renate Olins, a close friend since their twenties, spoke for many when she said: "I will miss her terribly.

"Her nationality was Hampstead. She just thought it was the best place in the world and the centre of the universe." 

Ruth Gorb died on February 24 and is survived by her sons, the composer Adam Gorb and artist Simon Gorb, daughter-in-law Liz, grandchildren Ben and Juliette, and more friends than can be paid justice to. 

Her funeral will be held at Golders Green Crematorium on Friday March 17 at 3pm. All are welcome.