Public memorial set for Maggie Daley

November 28, 2011 5:29:38 AM PST
A family spokesman says a public memorial ceremony is planned at the Chicago Cultural Center for former first lady Maggie Daley.

Maggie Daley, wife of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, died at home at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving at the age of 68. Her long battle with cancer started when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002.

On Sunday, there will be a public wake at the cultural center, 78 E. Washington, from noon to 10pm. There will be a public mass 10:30 a.m. Monday at Old St. Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams

President Barack Obama, who knew the Daleys well from his years in Chicago, issued a statement from the White House saying, "Maggie was an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life to public service. While she will be sorely missed, her initiatives on behalf of Chicago's youth live on as national models for how to create environments for children to learn and grow outside the classroom. Maggie's commitment to children and the people of Chicago was surpassed only by her devotion to her family."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement Thursday night as well. He said, "We grieve for the Daley family. Chicago has lost a warm and gracious first lady who contributed immeasurably to our city. While Mayor Daley served as the head of this city, Maggie was its heart."

"There is a word, charisma, in Greek that means God's grace, and she had God's grace," said Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn. "She cared about others and helped others, especially children, and anyone who came her way."

There was no word Friday morning on when the Daley family or Mayor Daley himself may come outside to make any kind of public comment. The Daley family spent Thursday in their home at 900 North Michigan Ave. Supporters had been coming by since the news of Maggie Daley's passing.

One of Maggie Daley's last public appearances was on November 17 when the Daleys' daughter Lally, 27, was married. She wore the dress Maggie wore when she married Richard Daley. The marriage was moved up from New Year's Eve because the family wanted to make sure Maggie Daley could "fully participate," a hint as to her health condition.

Maggie Daley was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. Despite some promising treatment in April of 2009, the family revealed that her cancer spread to her bones. On Thursday night, her nine-year battle with cancer ended.

The family issued a statement that read, "Former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley passed away this evening surrounded by her family, her husband and children. The mayor and his family would like to thank the people of Chicago for the many kindnesses shown Mrs. Daley over the years and appreciate your prayers during this time."

Bill Daley, President Obama's chief of staff and the former mayor's brother, was seen leaving the family's home late Thursday night. Some Chicagoans dropped off flowers outside the Gold Coast building.

"Maggie Daley was a wonderful woman, full of grace and a Lady Diana of Chicago," said Peggy Yates.

During her husband's more than two decades in office, Maggie Daley was involved in a number of projects and programs that beautified the city and enriched the lives of Chicago's children. In an interview, she said her marriage and children were the centers of her life.

"I couldn't be doing as well without their love," she said.

"When you think about the 22 years that Mayor Daley was in office, you remember among the successes she helped heal the racial divide, downtown development of Millennium Park, tearing down public housing," said ABC7 political reporter Charles Thomas. "What people sometimes forget is what a wonderful role model he and Maggie set for marriage and family during the two decades in public office. Over the past 20 years, in other big American cities -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, Washington, D.C., certainly Atlanta -- the personal lives of past mayors in those cities made for some fairly tawdry headlines, but there was nothing like that in Chicago. We had the fortune of covering a great story of love and respect for those 22 years."

The program Maggie Daley founded for Chicago youth, After School Matters, released a statement Friday saying, "She was truly a visionary who inspired Chicago, the nation and leaders from around the world with her passion for providing teenagers with opportunities to find paths to meaningful lives. While After School Matters has lost its leader, Chicago's teens have lost their strongest voice and champion - a true believer in the potential of high school students if only they are offered opportunity and encouragement."

"I think back to the '80s when he came into office, it was a polarizing time in the city, and she was everything that Mayor Daley was not," said Rev. Jesse Jackson. "She was the soft side of it. I remember so well that the work that we did during that very tumultuous period, that her presence was there, available but not assertive in a threatening sense, and so when we think of her, she is embodying the spirit of Chicago at its best."

ABC7 political analyst and Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington listed the projects Maggie Daley influenced in her years as first lady.

"The Cultural Center, which she pretty much created and saved, and After School Matters, Gallery 37 in Millennium Park, that was inspired partly by her," Washington said. "Meigs Field, which was very controversial, but she was behind making it into a park and giving back to the children, children in need not only educationally but disabled children as well."

At DePaul University, a photo of Maggie Daley was displayed in the State Street window of the building named for her and her husband.

A floral display has been placed in the grand central lobby of Chicago City Hall. Emanuel will declare an official day of mourning and a moment of silence to honor Mrs. Daley.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says he remembers seeing Maggie Daley smiling at church last St. Patrick's Day.

Musicians, writers and chefs are also remembering Maggie Daley.

A post on Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert's Twitter feed remembered Daley as "good, kind and brave." The Pulitzer Prize winner and Chicagoan said Daley "was loved."

Jane's Addiction rocker and Lollapalooza music festival founder Perry Farrell tweeted that he was proud to have known Daley and worked with her "to make Chicago amongst the greatest cities in the world."

Chicago celebrity chef Rick Bayless called Daley a "warm, relentless champion of the arts, Chicago chefs, all things Chicago."

Memorial contributions may be made to After School Matters at or the Maggie Daley Cancer Center at Northwestern University at

There will be memorial books for those who want to share memories at city hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., and the cultural center. There will be memorial books for children touched by her to sign at Gallery 37, 66 E Randolph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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