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Final farewell to legendary Ham & High editor

'Gerry was without question the finest newspaper editor I ever came across'

20 June, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Gerry Isaaman with Peggy Jay

TRIBUTES were paid to newspaper editor Gerald Isaaman at his funeral on Friday morning.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Golders Green Cremator­ium for a final farewell to the journalist who spent 40 years at the Hampstead and Highgate Express newspaper – 25 of which were as its editor.

The 85-year-old, who died in April, later worked as a feature writer for the New Journal and set up a community newspaper in Marlborough in his retirement.

His son Dan Isaaman said: “Almost to the day he died, he was writing – sending tips, reviewing books, and, with his total lack of fear of authority, writing to the chairman of Sky to complain about his TV bill. We [his family] urged him to write a memoir, but he just couldn’t take his eyes off what was happening right here and now – the news.”

Towards the end of his life he had been living in Guildford but remained passionate about the area he had chronicled for so many years – to the extent some called him “Mr Hampstead”.

He arrived at the Ham & High in 1955.

Journalist Matthew Lewin, who worked under Mr Isaaman and then took over in the editor’s chair, said: “Anyone who knew Gerry won’t be surprised to hear that he left detailed instructions about how this event was to be run. Music by Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, one reading, two brief speakers – and no religious stuff at all. Above all, he wanted this to be a jolly affair.”

He added: “Gerry was without question the finest newspaper editor I ever came across. He had a piercing vision about what people wanted from their local paper which he believed should cover every aspect of their lives, including what he called ‘the good things in life’ – music, art, theatre, and above all literature.”

James Roose-Evans, founder of the Hampstead Theatre, of which Mr Isaaman became a board member in 1970s, said: “We all owe so much to his loyal­ty to us right through to the end of his life.” Publisher Jeremy Robson said: “I worked for the paper at age 18 in 1959 for two weeks. Gerry was knowledgable, insightful, always warm and caring.”

Journalist and TV executive Dame Liz Forgan said: “He believed fiercely in the power and importance of local journalism. It was a joy to work for the Ham & High in the 60s. It was a real player in the life of the community it served.”

Gerald Isaaman died of cancer on April 29 at age 85. He is survived by his wife Delphine, son Dan and grandson Max.

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