Jacqueline Ari Murray died on Wednesday at the age of 83, and according to her obituary, she was much cooler than most of us.
The lovingly written piece appeared in the Star Tribune on Sunday, and it described a glamourous life lived according to its own terms. Murray resided in Italy, Paris, New York, and Minneapolis. She was fluent in French, danced ballet in the Paris opera, and created a shopping service at Dayton’s for women’s office attire, just as women were starting to break into the workforce.
The obituary says Murray accomplished all this with “class,” as if you needed to ask.
“She lived for quality, sophistication, elegance, and beauty in all areas of her life,” it says.
A memorial has yet to be scheduled, but the obituary suggests a few things to do in Murray’s honor in the meantime:
“Take off your shoes, eat some ice cream, have a margarita or champagne, eat with your fingers on a picnic blanket in the sun, listen to jazz, and donate to causes that will elect a new president.”
The obituary was written by Murray’s daughter, Caprice Bart, who says her mother really was that cool, that classy. Born “Baby Murray,” the youngest of 13 children, she was shipped off to a convent when she was only 4 or 5 years old while her parents supported the World War II effort.
“I’m sure that must have been terrifying,” Bart says. “She said the nuns’ dresses were so straight she thought they slept on boards.”
Murray was never keen on doing things that were expected of her. She’d sneak out of her room at night to be with her sisters, according to her second-born, Tiffany Churilla. She graduated from college at a time when few women even attended, became a single mother of four, and started her own business somewhere between being a ballerina in France and studying fashion design.
Her shopping service, FYI (For Your Image), changed how women presented themselves in the workplace, at a time when the best they had were gigantic shoulder pads and boxy earrings. She was eventually invited to work with the famous Galeries Lafayette in France—which was, how they say, a coup.
“I don’t know another American woman who could go to Paris, France and teach people how to dress,” Churilla says.
She always liked nice things. She used the guest china and the good crystal regularly. Her tiny apartment in the 510 Groveland building was full of jazz. Her freezer was full of ice cream. She walked around barefoot, like in her bohemian days in Paris in the ’60s, wore a lot of black, painted, and read the New York Times cover to cover every day.
And yes, she hated Donald Trump.
“When he was elected, I think she was really shocked,” says Wendy Marczak, who became one of her closest friends and neighbors in the last decade of her life. “She would watch the news constantly to keep an eye on him.”
A lot of the things Murray loved best had to be scaled back in her later years. She had to eat off paper plates rather than her good dishes. Friends and family discouraged her from watching too much news, lest she sink into despair. But still, she dreamed. Marczak remembers their last argument, when Murray was in a care facility, looking at the buildings outside her window.
“I don’t know how I get myself into these situations,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here.”
It took everything to convince her that she should stay there, within reach of her friends and children, rather than run away to live in a prairie house out in the middle of nowhere.
“She was planning her escape,” Marczak says.
Murray never had a sense of superiority. People remember her as a sort of glamorous mentor, specifically because she spent so much of her time convincing others not to settle for less. She’d sit them down and tell them to tackle their big creative projects, move to the sea, accomplish their dreams—that nothing less would do.
“She always taught me, ‘That’s not good enough,’” Bart says.
So let’s honor Murray in the way she would have wanted. Kick off your shoes, treat yourself to something nice, flip off Donald Trump, and dream big. Even the lucky ones only get so many days. Make yours glamorous.