Mary Ella Smith, Harold Washington's fiancée, dies at age 80

Mary Ella Smith and former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

Mary Ella Smith, the fiancee of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, died Thursday at age 80.

The Northwestern grad met Washington in 1961, but they didn't get engaged until 1983.

They never married because Smith said it seemed nicer not to be tied down.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement overnight:

"The City of Chicago mourns the loss of a fierce advocate and a true ambassador with the passing of Mary Ella Smith. As the loving partner and longtime confidante of the late Mayor Harold Washington, Ms. Smith's special role went far beyond that of 'First Fiancee.' For a lifetime she educated Chicago's children and for nearly 30 years she continued to enlighten every Chicagoan. On behalf of the City of Chicago, I send my deepest condolences to the Smith Family during this difficult time."

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