Aldermen pay tribute to Maggie Daley, tell how she used to put ex-mayor in his place
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2012 12:18PM
Nora Daley Conroy, daughter of Richard J Daley and Maggie Daley smiles as the Chicago City Council honors her mother, the late Maggie Daley. Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: February 21, 2012 8:23AM
Maggie Daley was remembered by the City Council Wednesday — not only for her tireless work on behalf of Chicago’s children and her courageous battle against breast cancer, but for the tender kindnesses and humor she demonstrated even when out of public view.
With her daughter Nora sitting alone in the VIP box normally reserved for cabinet members, Chicago aldermen rose to tell touching, previously untold stories about the wife of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, told of taking a trip to Birmingham, England, with the Daleys and sitting on a tour bus listening to Chicago’s longest-serving mayor hold court, only to be taken down a notch by the wife who kept him grounded.
“She looked up and she said, ‘Sit down, Louie. We’re not in Chicago anymore. We don’t have to listen to this.’… Your dad looked at her. We all kind of waited for what was gonna happen. He just looked. He smiled that smile that he gets every once in a while. And he sat down,” O’Connor said.
“It was such a moment of enlightenment for my wife and I because, here’s a real power couple who had a real genuine relationship. Later on, I asked her, ‘Why did you call him Louie?’ And she said, ‘Because every once in a while, he thinks he’s the king of France and I have to tell him.’”
O’Connor also told of the box of decaffeinated tea delivered to his office with a note from Maggie Daley that read, “Try this. You’ll love it.” O’Connor made the switch in the recommendation of his doctors after being diagnosed with cancer.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) choked back tears as he told of the loving care that Maggie Daley showed his mother during Kathy Osterman’s own losing battle with breast cancer. A former 48th Ward alderman-turned-special events director, Kathy Osterman was one of Maggie Daley’s closest friends.
“My mother died over 19 years ago. Nobody was closer to her and there for her than Maggie and Rich Daley,” Harry Osterman said.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) told of the condolence card he got from the Daleys when Solis’ mother died in January 2010 and about the personal note he got from Maggie that Christmas.
“She remembered my mom passing away and thought about how the holidays would be difficult for me with my Mom being gone,” Solis recalled. “Just when you thought she had forgotten about things, she remembered.”
Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) told the story of the family crisis he faced when doctors told his son and daughter-in-law that their unborn baby had spina bifida. That’s the same disease that claimed the life of Daley’s son, Kevin in 1981 at the age of 2.
Doctors recommending aborting the child because the pressure of raising a special needs child could “rip a family apart.” But the couple kept the child, who was talking, walking, running all over and “perfect in every possible way,” as the alderman put it, by the age of 13 months.
Turning to Nora, Mell said when he told Maggie Daley about the progress his grandchild was making, “your mother, she started crying. So did your father. … Your mother said that was my wife, who had passed away, watching out for her and making sure that everything was okay.”
Maggie Daley — a champion of the arts and the driving force behind the After School Matters program to occupy and educate Chicago’s youth — died on Thanksgiving Day after a nine-year battle against metastatic breast cancer that served as an inspiration to breast cancer survivors. She was 68.
Conspicuously absent from the tribute Wednesday was her husband. Jackie Heard, spokesman for Richard Daley, said while the former mayor is making strides in healing from the loss, he can become overcome with emotion at the mere mention of his beloved Maggie, and therefore decided not to attend.
Despite the focus on personal stories, Maggie Daley’s good works were not forgotten during Wednesday’s City Council tribute.
“She departed the city far better than she found it. She made it more civil, more artistic, more compassionate, more courageous, more heroic and more sensitive to the lives of the vulnerable and their needs,” said Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th).
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is working with the Daley family to find an enduring city tribute to Mrs. Daley, had the final word, telling Nora Daley that her mother was a gift to Chicago.
“She treated every other child in Chicago as if it was one of her own. That’s what made her such a special person,” the mayor said.