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Chicagoist's Top 11 for 2011: Maggie Daley Passes

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 27, 2011 4:20PM

Richard M. Daley served as Chicago's mayor longer than any other in the city's history. It would be far too easy to view him as a politician and not a family man. The Thanksgiving death of his wife Maggie served to remind us of that.

Mrs. Daley's nine-year battle with cancer inspired scores of people, and the mayor cited her ongoing health concerns as a reason he decided to not seek a second term. Hundreds of people, from dignitaries to common folk, waited in line at the Cultural Center to pay final respects to a woman most of them had never met, but who had touched their lives through her After School Matters charity and her championing of education, the arts and helping to shine a light on Chicago as a city of culture.

Mrs. Daley was also fiercely protective of her brood and tried to shield them and tried to shield them from the glare of the media. Richard Daley, likewise, bristled when news broke of the $6.5 million grant awarded to After School Matters in the waning days of his mayoralty, and also of the TIF kickbacks to After School Matters that were exposed by City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. Although Ferguson stressed that the kickbacks, as written under law, were legal and that he had no reason to believe Mrs. Daley did amazing work with her charity, Mayor Daley still blew a gasket.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already stated he will discuss a lasting memorial to Mrs. Daley's honor with the Daley family. The Cultural Center, a preservation battle she took up from her mother-in-law Sis Daley, would be an ideal candidate. So would Northerly Island; Mrs. Daley was influential in her husband's midnight destruction of the former Meigs Field's runways and its subsequent transformation into a park. The Park District has ambitious plans to turn Northerly Island into a nature preserve.