Selma Koch, 95, the Bra Lady who fitted generations of women without tiring or tape measure and became famous in old age for refusing to regret or retire, died June 12 in a hospital here.
She died after falling and breaking a hip at the Town Shop, whose threshold she first crossed in 1927, when she married Henry Koch and his lingerie business.
She had one demand when she died. "She warned me in the hospital: When I die, do not close that store," her grandson Danny Koch said Friday. "So our hearts are heavy, but we are here."
Selma Koch and the Town Shop had long been New York favorites. But last year, after national news stories appeared about an old woman who still found a reason to believe -- in life, in work and in the importance of a bra that fits -- she suddenly became famous. Letters poured in from across the country. More reporters showed up. Rosie O'Donnell interviewed her.
"She loved the celebrity status," her grandson said. "It was really a nice thing to happen to her at that age."
But she was loath to admit it. With great charm, she would smile and nod to customers at the store at Broadway and 82nd Street who carried in newspaper clippings bearing her photograph. After they walked away, she would turn to her grandson and grumble, "What's the big deal? It's just a bra."
She worked 10 hours a day, six days week, right up to last week. She wore crimson lipstick and plunging, but tasteful, necklines.
She prided herself on being able to determine a woman's bra size just by looking. "We don't measure anything," she said. "We're trained to know."
[In its obituary of Mrs. Koch, the New York Times reported that she was a 34B.]
She stocked more than 8,000 varieties of bras in sizes covering half the alphabet. She ordered the latest trends in lingerie, though some baffled her. The thong, for instance. In an interview last year, she wrinkled her nose at its mention. "Why would you want to wear something that . . . well, you know," she said.
Mrs. Koch, a Manhattan native, was an independent woman before anyone called it that. She graduated from Columbia University's School of Journalism in 1925 and landed a job as a copywriter at an advertising agency.
That is how she met Henry Koch. She went to his successful business -- there were four stores then -- to handle his account. He asked for her home number. She haughtily turned him down. Then she learned he was one of New York's most eligible bachelors.
"So I went back," she said. "With a little more charm."
When he died in 1970, she closed all but one of the stores to care for her two sons and to be closer to their Manhattan apartment. Her boys, now in their seventies, grew up in the Town Shop. So did her grandchildren.
Over the years, she sold trousseaus to women who later sent their daughters and granddaughters.
"I always liked people. No sales pressure -- that we don't allow," she said. "The whole secret is having a relationship with people."
Survivors include two sons, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.