On her way to becoming a spectacular educator Ruth Goldhammer took to heart a mentor’s advice: paint your life in vivid colors, laugh mostly at yourself, and always keep learning. Ruth adhered to this counsel, following a creative approach to public education, engaging in travel that carried her across the country and the globe, enthusiastically experiencing all that San Francisco has to offer, frequently participating in volunteer work and activism, and voraciously reading, not to mention her joyful and wise motherhood and the devotion to and from a vast circle of family and friends.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ruth grew up in a life rich with connections to extended family. Before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, she married architect Lewis Goldhammer. They enjoyed one another’s companionship for 43 years, until Lewis’ death in 2008. The couple launched their marriage with a shared dream of travel, celebrating with a European honeymoon. They settled in Potrero Hill in 1966, inspiring many family members to follow them to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Through the years the Goldhammers lived on a number of Hill streets, including De Haro, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Kansas, where Ruth and Lew raised their two sons, Alex and Robert, sending them to school on the public bus. The family ultimately bought the old Victorian on Kansas Street they’d rented for years and fixed it up. The little earthquake cottage at the back was home to Marc Passen, the son of the View’s founding publisher, for many years.
At San Francisco State University Ruth earned a bachelor of arts, teaching credential and master of arts. She garnered a second masters, in educational leadership, at St. Mary’s College, Moraga. Ruth taught at a junior high school in Pacifica. She served as a vice principal at a Richmond school. She then joined the San Mateo County Office of Education to institute a program she devised during her graduate studies. To enhance on-the-job performance and increase student success in low-performing schools, Ruth, along with county staff, coached principals and assistant principals, and offered teachers strategies for greater effectiveness.
A San Francisco Court Appointed Special Advocates worker and Food Bank volunteer, Ruth strove to improve social and political conditions. She participated in the Obama for President campaign, and wrote letters to legislators on social injustice and inequality issues. She was an early supporter of the View, participated in a walking group that was first started through the newspaper, and was a Potrero Boosters member. Ruth and Lew regularly welcomed international visitors to their home for dinner as Global Ties hosts.
Ruth was a leader in the battle community advocates waged to stop the Victorian Mews project. Although that effort was unsuccessful, it secured the park near the stairs on Carolina Street, which gave neighbors a piece of the view they lost along 20th street and a bit of open space.
Ruth leaves behind son and daughter-in-law Ben and Laura Goldhammer, son and daughter-in-law Alex Goldhammer and Yael Gernez – who live on Kansas Street, just four doors from the house Alex grew up in – brother and sister-in-law Robert and Deborah Kweller, sister and brother-in-law Donna and Curtis Cavin, nieces and nephews Cayla and Noah Cavin and Joshua Kweller; and loving companion Bart Rhoades.
Donations are encouraged to Sempervirons, which will dedicate a redwood in Ruth’s honor in the Santa Cruz Mountains.