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Editorial: ‘It’s been a good life’ — Maggie Daley

Chicago's  First Lady  Maggie Daley Ogden Park 6500 S. Racine as part Mayor Richard Daley neighborhood appreciatitour Friday

Chicago's First Lady Maggie Daley at Ogden Park, 6500 S. Racine as part of Mayor Richard Daley neighborhood appreciation tour, Friday, May 13, 2011. | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: December 26, 2011 8:00AM

Over the last 22 years, the City of Chicago came to greatly admire Maggie Daley.

Not because she sought our admiration. Not because she clamored for the limelight. And not because she let it define her.

But because she didn’t.

As a city, as neighbors, as observers from afar, Chicago mourns her passing at age 68.

Intensely private, gracious and unassuming, Maggie Daley embodied many of the qualities that Chicagoans admire most.

She put family first. This city will always recall one of her final moments — as a proud mother at the November 17 wedding of her youngest daughter, a ceremony that was moved up so she could fully participate.

Mrs. Daley cared passionately about nurturing young people, particularly those who needed it most. She lived life fully, relishing its goodness and making the most of her opportunities.

And, when necessary, she spoke up strongly for the things she cared about most. Publicly, these included promoting her after-school arts and enrichment program, After School Matters, and, in recent years, talking about her battle with cancer.

Mrs. Daley’s approach to managing her illness, a disease that many expected to take her life years ago, was nothing short of inspiring.

When asked in May how she was feeling, she shifted the spotlight elsewhere. “I have a lot of challenges ahead. But anybody who has cancer has the same experience,” she said. “We’re a mighty group. I’m not alone. I’m one of many.”

As a couple, Maggie Daley was the yin to Rich Daley’s yang. Where the former mayor could be gruff and impatient, she was kind and accepting. She softened and humanized the mayor, leaving him — and many of us — near tears when he struggled to answer reporters’ questions about her long struggle with cancer.

Chicago’s cultural maven Lois Weisberg once captured their interplay in an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan: “Oh, he’s so shy. But when he sees her he just lights up and she has this way of making him endearing to other people.”

Chicagoans gave Rich points for that — he was smart enough and loving enough to marry Maggie.

How sadly timed, her death, just after Chicago’s First Couple for so long had finally left City Hall for good.

In one of her last public appearances, in May, Maggie Daley said she was looking forward to “another chapter.”

“That’s all,” she said. “We’re looking forward to other possibilities.”

And in that moment, which in retrospect we can see was a gracious bow before leaving the stage, she again displayed the qualities that had won her fans across the city. There was that down-to-earth manner. There was that lovely ability to deeply appreciate the richness of a life.

“Twenty-two years have flown by, but it’s been a wonderful experience for us, and it’s been a good life,” Maggie Daley said. “It’s a good life.”

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