A more reflective Daley looks back on his two loves

April 29, 2012 8:56:44 PM PDT
These days you are just as likely to find Richard M. Daley on the campus of an elite university, or conducting business in China, as you are on the streets of the city that was synonymous with his name.

"I had just one love," Daley said. "I get that from my father: If you're going to be mayor you really have to love this city and it's people - even though sometimes they won't love you - but listen, it's all worth it in the end."

Daley has taken his love of urban planning on the road. From the midnight raid on Meigs Field to the construction of Millennium Park, he talks about it all.

On this day he was at Harvard. Throughout his lecture, he frequently mentioned his late wife Maggie.

He may have been the mayor, Daley said, but "she" made things happen.

"Sure you think about her," he said. "After 40 years of marriage and dating her for a year. I knew the day I met her -- it was at a party -- that was the woman I was going to marry. It took a year."

Bradley: "That's pretty quick by today's standards."
Daley: "Yeah, but I just knew. We had 40 years. We had wonderful children and grandchildren. She fought cancer in a way that it was never a burden in her life."

Daley said he sees reminders of her as he drives around Chicago: The cultural center, kids involved in After School matters, and of course: the flowers, lots and lots of flowers.

It has been nearly five months since Chicago said goodbye to Maggie Daley, but her presence in this intensely private family looms large.

Earlier this month the Daley's gathered at the new Lurie Children's Hospital to dedicate a garden in memory of the Daley's son, who died at the age of 2 from complications of spina bifida.

"We dedicated Kevin's garden of course, so it was very emotional," Daley said. "We had the nurses there and the doctors. And Maggie wrote a beautiful poem on Kevin's life. A special poem. Very long, all about his life and his struggle. Good memories."

The former mayor said weekends are hardest. Maggie always filled them with activity.

"You look back at life - and I think it was a great life," Daley said. "I enjoyed it. It doesn't mean you don't have ups and downs and challenges."

If Daley seems a bit more reflective than you remember, perhaps it's because he just celebrated a milestone birthday, 70 years old.

"Oh! I made it," he said with a laugh and a thumbs-up to the camera.

He's still going strong, energized by new experiences and new roles.

Bradley: "Chicagoans don't get to hear from you a lot. What do you want to say to them?"
Daley: "I miss you. You know I see people around. It doesn't matter if they agree or disagree, they know the only thing I thought about was Chicago. My 22 years, that's all I thought about was Chicago. I never thought about anything else and that was important."