Ruth Gordon
1933 - 2016
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Ruth I. Gordon

Ruth I. Gordon, teacher, librarian, writer, and fierce supporter of civil liberties, died at her home in Cloverdale, California on Monday, July 18, attended by her wife Viki Marugg and dear friend Linda Perkins. Ruth was a strong advocate of library services to children in schools and in the community, and was a valued colleague and mentor to librarians throughout the United States.

Ruth was born on May 13, 1933 in Chicago, the daughter of Samuel M. and Charlotte Gordon, and the sister to Robert B. Gordon, M.D. Her family moved to Forest Hills, Queens, New York where she attended grammar school at PS 144 and graduated from Forest Hills High School.

She received her A.B. from Tufts University, her M.A. from Brown University, her Masters of Library Science from University of California, Berkeley, and her PhD from Berkeley. Her research culminated in her thesis "Paul Elder: Bookseller-Publisher (1897-1917): A Bay Area Reflection." She was very proud of her academic success, and was forever known as Dr. Ruth.

Her teaching career spanned from the Portola Valley (California) School District to the Aviano (Italy) Dependents School (USAF). Returning to California, Ruth pursued her graduate studies at Cal while she served as a lecturer and director of practicum at the University of San Francisco. During this time, she was a National Defense Education Act scholar.

Her library career brought her to serve students in rural areas of northern California: Lassen County, Cloverdale, and Petaluma. She served as a consultant for several library projects and as the managing editor of Critical Reviewing UnLtd.

She was concerned about each child with whom she worked. She knew that reading and libraries could be a place of refuge for those whose lives were chaotic and a gateway to the wider world for those whose geography or circumstances were limited. She had high standards, both for herself and for her colleagues and supervisors and would not be silent if she felt that library services were not fully supported.

Ruth held numerous positions within the American Library Association, the Association for Library Services to Children, the Notable Children's Books committee, the John Newbery Award Committee, and the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California.

Her professional work and her association work were marked by her persistent advocacy for quality services for children. She was a strong proponent of the maxim "to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable" and her comments, both at the microphone and in print reflected this drive.

Her role in bringing the bigotry within the Boy Scouts of America to the forefront of America's social conscience through the power of the library associations was her proudest achievement in many years of activism.

As an author and editor, she enjoyed great success with poetry and prose. Many of her books are standard titles for teen readers. Ruth enjoyed a collegial relationship with Charlotte Zolotow, her editor at HarperCollins and with the legendary publicist Bill Morris.

Ruth was an active hiker and loved exploring the areas around her homes in Cloverdale and the Sea Ranch. She was often seen with her camera around her neck, as she enjoyed photography. Once a season ticket holder, Ruth was a passionate but critical fan of the Oakland Athletics. Her home garden was a delight and guests were treated to meals with produce and fruits that came from the backyard. Often, they left Cloverdale with a bag of citrus from Ruth's trees.

Ruth was predeceased by her parents, Samuel M. and Charlotte Gordon; and by her brother, Robert B. Gordon, M.D., and her sister-in-law Lois Gordon. Ruth is survived by her beloved wife Victoria Marugg, her nieces Janet Booth, Gail Kavaler, and Robin Strawbridge and five grandnieces and grandnephews. Ruth's memories will be a comfort to her family and a blessing to those whose lives she touched over a 60 year career.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jul. 30 to Aug. 2, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Victoria Marugg, Wife
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12 entries
November 1, 2020
Over the years, Ruth shared many tales of her very full and colorful life, in Chicago, Winnetka, Queens, Boston, Providence, San Francisco, Aviano, Berkeley, Portola Valley, Susanville, and Cloverdale. Many places, but with Ruth, her life was about the people connections. So many, and so well-remembered. In 2006 we were able to connect with many of the alumni of Portola Valley School. She also held fast to her friendships in "Libraryland" and the children's book publishers by remaining active in the American Library Association. I diligently tried to contact all who knew her, but I know I missed many. Just before Ruth passed, in a short voice recording, she bid farewell to her dear friends and profusely thanked all those "who made my life worthwhile." I sent that recording to all I whose contact info. I had, but I know that so many were not on that list. If you are one of those folk, please feel free to contact me, at . We can share stories and perhaps even photographs. You'll remember' she was handy with a camera. Nancy Wayenberg Brown, it was your note that inspired me to write this. I'm hoping you may take a second look
Victoria Marugg
October 31, 2020
I just found out about Ruth's passing. She was one of my teachers in Aviano, Italy. She was a very good teacher and one of those that one never forgets. She became friends with our family and was often over to eat pizza with us when Mom made pizza on Sat. evening. She and a couple other teachers and a librarian were friends with my older sister who worked summers at the base library when not in college. So we saw a lot of Ruth. Blessings to you.
Nancy Wayenberg Brown
February 18, 2018
Dear Victoria,
Thank you for getting back to me. I'd love to be included in the Portola Valley School events. I'm at; please send me your email address so I can get on the list.
Kathy Sauber Jones
August 9, 2016
I was very sad to read about Dr. Gordon's passing
She was my 7th grade teacher in Portola Valley and she was definitely one of my favorite teachers.
One fun memory of her. She came to have dinner with me and my parents at our home and she brought me a new pet, a Hamster!
I am sorry I wasn't able to keep in touch with her over the years. My condolences to her wife Viki and the rest of her family.
Sally Dodge
August 4, 2016
Becky Lake
August 2, 2016
Martha Casselman
August 1, 2016
I'm sorry, Vik. I know what it is to lose a spouse of long standing. My thoughts are with you. Bill H.
August 1, 2016
Dear Viki Marrugg,
Though I never had the honor of meeting Ruth, I know how much she meant to you and to those around her. You and the entire community have lost a friend and an advocate for a better world.
Wishing you comfort and peace with your many fond memories of such a strong and caring partner.

Take care.
Beverly Forman
July 30, 2016
I first met Dr. Ruth 38 years ago when she visited my class at Cedar Mill School in Susanville, CA. I was teaching seriously cognitively challenged students at the time and surprised that she would come to my classroom. I remember her as always being inclusive of all students, full of energy, and always smiling. I also recall her as having a great sense of humor.

When I saw her picture in the Press Democrat this week, I was a bit confused. I thought she looked familiarbut this is Sonoma County, not Lassen. As I read through the notice, I realized it was the same Dr. Ruth that visited my classroom so many years ago. Dr. Ruth and her partner also came to my house in Clear Creek for dinner. My husband is a writer and an artist and it was a wonderful evening with great conversations about writers and artists and art.

I send my love and deepest sympathies to her wife, Vicky, and to her family, and friends.
Kathy Comfort
July 28, 2016
Dear Ms. Marugg,
I was so sad to hear of Ruth Gordon's passing. Over the years when I've stopped to reflect on the teachers who influenced and inspired me, Miss Gordon was at the top of my list. I'd thought about looking her up on a few occasions, but without success.
She was my 8th grade teacher at Portola Valley School 1960-'61. (Though I can't find a class photo of that year, I think your brother Steven was in that class too, as I found his picture in my freshman class in the Woodside HS yearbook.)
We had just moved to Portola Valley in my 8th grade year, a hard year to break into formed social groups, and Miss Gordon was always kind and encouraging. I found it especially interesting that her obituary credited her with teaching Nobel Laureate Roger Kornberg how to diagram sentences...that's one of my fond memories of her. She invited me to stay after school, and went over and over the process until I'd gotten it. She also refused to let me write another book report on Nancy Drew, insisting that I expand my literary horizons. Thank you Miss Gordon!
And for years afterward, I could still recite the entire choral reading she wrote for our promotion ceremony that began: "STOP! On a bone-dry dessert do you hear the sound of water...slowly dripping down?" I wonder if it's printed in one of her poetry anthologies?
I'm especially sad that I wasn't aware that she'd worked in the Kenilworth Junior High School library; I wonder if we crossed paths while my children attended there, 1991 - 1994? I would have been so excited to see her and thank her in person.
Please accept my most sincere condolences for your loss. If there is to be a memorial service, I would very much appreciate hearing about it.
Very truly yours,
Kathleen Sauber Jones
Kathleen Jones
July 28, 2016
Viki, Feeling sorrow for you and in awe of Ruth's long and accomplished life. Glad she had you in her life. We send you love and hugs and want to connect with you. Nan and Pat
Nan Perrott
July 28, 2016
I am so sorry to learn that Ruth has died. She was such a strong articulate supporter of many causes and she always urged her friends to join her in advocacy. I will treasure her memory and remember how she gave me the strength to speak out in Council at ALA. Her wit and her great heart were so special. I was blessed to know her and she gave me the great gift at the end of a message, a good by. I will treasure that as I treasure being one of the people who received her message. Please accept my condolences and thank you Vicki for sending the message. With love and in sadness Pat Hogan
Patricia Hogan
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