Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also remembered for her devotion to justice, her love of family, and her impact on the lives of millions in this week's issue of PEOPLE

By Diane Herbst
September 23, 2020 09:13 AM

When Paul Schiff Berman was a law clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the late 90's, the Supreme Court Justice discovered that her young charge was dating a woman clerking in different chambers. 

"I don't know how she found out, she buzzed me on the intercom one day and said with sort of a twinkle in her voice, 'I didn't know you had a special friend here at the court, you must have her up for tea,' " Berman, a clerk from 1997 to 1998,  tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. 

The next week Ginsburg forwarded a formal invitation to Berman's "special friend," Laura Dickinson. The day of the tea, Ginsburg set a table in her office with a beautiful tablecloth, fine china and a tea set. 

"We had a very elegant tea," says Berman. Two years later, Ginsburg performed their wedding. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiating wedding of former law clerk Paul Schiff Berman and Laura Dickinson
Goodman/Van Riper Photography
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
David Hume Kennerly/Getty

"She cared a huge amount about people," he says. "She cared about her clerks, and she cared about her grandkids. She cared about all people. 

"She was an incredible inspiration," Berman continues. "It was a great privilege to have been able to share some moments on the planet with one of the great beings who can credibly be said to have changed the world."

This 87-year-old trailblazer, who fought through her life for equal rights, and who in her later years became a pop-culture icon known as "The Notorious RBG," is celebrated in PEOPLE's cover story for her passion for making the world a better place. 

Ginsburg is also remembered as a loving friend and grandmother, who spent her last months surrounded by family and working with the same drive and passion that fueled her decades-long career. She died last Friday from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

Until soon before Ginsburg's death, Amanda Tyler — who clerked for Ginsburg in 1999 and 2000 — was working with the justice on a book about her former boss's life, career, and legacy fighting for gender equality.

"It was a defining feature of her life's work to build a more perfect union," Tyler tells PEOPLE. "She would want people to keep that work going." 

Amanda Tyler and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Courtesy Amanda L. Tyler

Another defining feature was Ginsburg's ability to build consensus, even with those who were her ideological opposites, such as the conservative Justice Anton Scalia, with whom Ginsburg shared a great friendship. Tyler recalls that Ginsburg didn't take it personally when the justices were divided on an issue. 

For more on Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life and legacy, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sebastian Kim/M+A World/AUGUST

"It was enormously important to her to engage with the other side to understand the reason for disagreement and then write opinions respectful of the other position," says Tyler. 

Last year, when Ginsburg came to University of California, Berkeley for a public talk with Tyler, a professor of law there,  the pair chatted about how early in Ginsburg's marriage, her husband Marty had testicular cancer. 

"She said to me, 'When you've had cancer, you develop a zest for life that you never had before,' " recalls Tyler. "And that has really stuck with me. I think that she never took anything for granted. She had to work very hard to get where she was and she never stopped working."

Amanda Tyler, left, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Ginsburg's work also included a meticulous attention to detail. In her chambers, recalls Berman,  "there was never a sentence that she did not fuss over." 

As fastidious as Ginsburg was with her work, she loosened up when around Marty, who died in 2010.

"I think she had actually kind of a flinty sense of humor, and she would sometimes get a little silly, particularly when she was around her husband," says Berman. 

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"Marty would bring out her more jovial side, she would be looser when he was around," he recalls to PEOPLE. "And I think she really, really enjoyed him on a day to day basis." 

Several years ago, Ginsburg once again extended an invitation out to Berman and his wife to come to her chambers, this time with their teenage son, Julien. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Paul Schiff Berman and son Julien
Laura Dickinson

"I remember our son was sort of despondent about the political climate in the country," Berman says.  "And he asked justice Ginsburg if she had any advice. And she said to remember that the symbol of America should not be the bald eagle, it should be the pendulum — and that things that swing one way, swing back the other way in time."