Beloved Chicago Former First Lady Loses Battle with Cancer

By Barbara Pinto

Nov 25, 2011 11:56am

Maggie Daley, the former first lady of the city of Chicago for more than two decades, died on Thanksgiving night, after a long battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was 68 years old.

Mrs. Daley died surrounded by family–her husband, former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and her three children.

“She was heroic. She had great dignity, and she was an inspiration for all of us,”  Dr. Steven Rosen, director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, told the Chicago Tribune.  He had cared for Mrs. Daley since her diagnosis more than nine years ago.

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel paid fitting tribute to the beloved woman who married into the Daley family, a powerful political dynasty, and left a legacy of her own.

“Chicago has lost a warm and gracious first lady who contributed immeasurably to our city,” he said. “While Mayor Daley served as the head of this city, Maggie was its heart.”

And from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn: ”The  state of Illinois lost a great treasure.  Maggie Daley was a woman for all seasons, who treated Chicago residents like family and served up hope and inspiration wherever she went.”

While raising a family of her own, Mrs Daley championed childrens’ programs and the arts.  She helped launch Gallery 37,  which provides job training and a summer arts program for Chicago children.  She also  focused on After School Matters, a private program that provides teenagers with after-school activities and job skills. The program now teaches thousands of city public school students about dance, art, jazz and sports–and offers programs in robotics and urban farming

Mrs. Daley won numerous awards for her work, and both programs were duplicated in cities nationwide.

Mrs. Daley was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, and in later years the disease had spread to her lungs, liver and bones.  She was hospitalized a number of times; last year she had an operation to insert a titanium rod in her right leg.  In recent years, she made public appearances using a walker or wheelchair. Even so, Mrs. Daley remained positive. On her husband’s last day in office this past May she said, “I have a lot of challenges ahead, but anybody who has cancer has the same experience. We’re a mighty group. I’m not alone. I am one of many.”

As the Daleys exited public life, Mrs. Daley’s health began to worsen.

In recent weeks, her daughter Elizabeth, known as “Lally,” moved her New Year’s Eve wedding to Nov. 17, and this past week the former Mayor Daley  also cancelled a planned trip to Harvard University.

Mrs. Daley is survived by her husband, son Patrick, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Nora. A second son, Kevin, died in childhood of complications from spina bifida.  Mrs. Daley is also survived by three grandchildren.

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