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Shannon Murphy Pulver was born to work in women's high fashion.

Murphy Pulver, whose family began the Frank Murphy store in St. Paul 80 years ago and who led the firm from 1972 to the early 1990s, supplied the well-dressed with top designer clothing.

She died of cancer Aug. 21 at her home in Webb Lake Township, Wis. The longtime St. Paul resident was 69.

She was a keen fashion buyer who loved to sell, said her husband, John Pulver. "She had great fashion sense."

At the store, others handled administration. She kept up on the couture dresses and personally knew many top designers, including Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta.

She would buy in Paris and personally take upscale customers to New York to be fitted for wedding dresses.

A couple of designers, such as Pauline Trigère, held showings at her store.

Under her leadership, Frank Murphy Inc. had two stores in St. Paul and one in Wayzata.

In 1957, she graduated from Convent of the Visitation School, then in St. Paul. In 1961, she earned a bachelor's degree from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. After a stint at Glamour magazine in New York, she returned to work for her parents, Frank and Madeline Murphy.

In the early 1930s, they moved from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Paul, and her father took a job at a clothing store. Within a few years, he decided to strike out on his own. He guessed -- correctly, as it turned out -- that he could succeed in high-fashion sales in St. Paul during the Great Depression and borrowed the money to establish the Frank Murphy store.

They were so busy that Murphy Pulver's mother also was drafted to work at the store.

Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks got his start there after Madeline hired him.

The Frank Murphy store was featured in newscasts from as far away as Europe during its annual "Give Away Sale," where discounted high fashions from the previous year filled the ballroom of the St. Paul Hotel.

"She was very well respected by the New York designers," said Kathy McMahon, of St. Paul, who was an administrator and buyer for the firm.

Murphy Pulver sold the firm in the early 1990s. The store became part of David-Edwins/Frank Murphy, now Frank Murphy Fashions in White Bear Lake.

She enjoyed golf, not so much for the score, but for the opportunity to be out in the sun with family and friends.

In addition to her husband of 38 years, she is survived by two daughters, Posh Jesmer, of St. Paul, and Zoe Pulver, of Fort Pierce, Fla.; two stepdaughters, Catharine Schwartz, of New York, and Celia Thrall, of Minneapolis; a stepson, Laird Pulver, of Glendale, Calif., and three step-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Assumption Catholic Church, 51 7th St. W., St. Paul.