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Son: Maggie Daley ‘loved the city of Chicago and its children’

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley stands with his children grandchildren as Maggie Daley's funeral processileaves Old St. Pat's Church Monday

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley stands with his children and grandchildren as Maggie Daley's funeral procession leaves at Old St. Pat's Church, Monday, November 28, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 30, 2011 8:07AM

Margaret Corbett Daley was remembered Monday as Chicago’s very own “Mother Superior” who “loved to give life lessons” and taught us all the greatest one of all.

“It’s her life. It’s who she is — who she always will be. This powerful statement of what life well-lived looks like, feels like, tastes like,” said the Rev. Jack Wall, pastor emeritus at Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams.

“She was a teacher. Many of her friends called her Mother Superior. She loved to give life lessons — always looking for things that we should learn from. … Ponder the gift of Maggie because, surely, she is a life lesson for all of us.”

At a 90-minute funeral mass that included first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mrs. Daley’s son Patrick acknowledged that his mother was “far from being a softie.”

She “demanded excellence and expected greatness” but also cautioned her children to enjoy the “simple joys of existence” and not to neglect those less fortunate, he said.

“As a mother, she was the embodiment of unconditional yet tough love. And as a grandmother, we saw her move from tough love and discipline to tenderness and indulgence,” Patrick Daley said, recalling that his mother loved an “occasional piece of dark chocolate” and was always the first one on and the last one off the dance floor.

“We are so proud of our mother. She led such a positive life impacting so many. Yet, for such an accomplished woman with so many professional and personal commitments, she always had the time to simply be our mother. Mom, we thank you. We love you. We miss you. And hold Kevin close until we see you again.”

When Patrick Daley ended his moving tribute with the reference to his brother, who died at the age of 2, the standing-room-only audience burst into applause. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley stood and gave his son a bear hug.

Former first lady Maggie Daley — a champion of the arts and the driving force behind the After School Matters program to occupy and educate Chicago young people — died on Thanksgiving Day after a nine-year battle against metastatic breast cancer. She was 68.

Monday’s funeral mass featured all the pageantry befitting the wife of 39 years of Chicago’s longest-serving mayor. It was held at the historic Near West Side church that Maggie and Richard M. Daley helped revive with their presence.

Maggie Daley was also a founder of the Frances Xavier Warde School next door to Old St. Pat’s. It started in a storefront with 35 students — Chicago’s first new Catholic school in over 25 years and the only one downtown — and now serves 900 students at two campuses. Elizabeth “Lally” Daley was among those in the school’s first graduating class.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy, were seated in the front row of the packed church along with Michelle Obama, the Bidens and Bloomberg.

Right behind them were: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; former Daley Planning Commissioner-turned-White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Susan Sher, the former Daley corporation counsel who went on to become Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.

Behind them were senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.); Gov. Pat Quinn and his girlfriend; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; her father, House Speaker Michael J. Madigan; Senate President John Cullerton, and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The church’s main floor and balcony were filled by 9:30 a.m., an hour before the service.

At 10:20 a.m., Cardinal Francis George walked in leading a contingent of priests that included Father Michael Pfleger, with whom George has feuded. At 10:30 a.m., the music inside stopped, the crowd fell silent and the Shannon Rovers bagpipes and drums could be heard playing outside, a sign that Maggie Daley’s casket had arrived at the church.

Outside, a dozen limousines carrying the various branches of the Daley family arrived after a procession through the downtown area that passed the Chicago Cultural Center that Mrs. Daley helped bring to life and City Hall, where her husband served for 22 years, giving Mrs. Daley the political platform for her good works.

The first limousine carried White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and his family. Finally, former Mayor Richard M. Daley stood with family members including Patrick and daughters Lally and Nora, as well as his three grandchildren, holding white tulips, Maggie Daley’s favorite flower.

The Shannon Rovers played the song “Maggie,” whose chorus includes the line: “When I first said I love only you, Maggie, and you said you love only me . . . .”

The pallbearers — Mrs. Daley’s brothers Francis Corbett, James Corbett and Joseph Corbett; brothers-in-law Michael Daley, William Daley and John Daley; and sons-in-law Sean Conroy and Sam Hotchkiss — led the way into the church, carrying the copper-colored casket.

They were followed by the former mayor, the three Daley children and the three grandchildren. The extended family followed them into the church.

Dozens of mourners who could not make it into the standing-room-only church stood outside in the cold wind, listening to the services broadcast over a loudspeaker.

In his eulogy, Rev. Wall called Maggie Daley, a Pittsburgh native, the “greatest gift that Pittsburgh ever gave to Chicago.”

He urged those inside the church and beyond to support After School Matters and what the former first lady with the radiant smile liked to call the “transformative power of beauty and the arts.”

“I see that smile, and I think Maggie was saying to us one of the things she loved to say: ‘Hello? Hello?’ She said it more to her guy friends than her girlfriends: ‘Don’t you get it?’ ” Wall said. “I have the confidence that we got that. We got it. Maggie, you were a great teacher. And we got the message. ... She and Rich together offered this great vision of inclusivity. ... No more ins and outs. No more ups and downs. Everyone counts.”

Lally Daley Hotchkiss, who moved up her wedding by a month so her mother could attend in her final days, offered a reading from St. Paul that served as a tribute to Mrs. Daley.

“Let your generosity be clear to all. Then, God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ,” she said.

When the 90-minute service ended, Chicago’s always-emotional former mayor bent down to give the casket one last kiss.

Then, a glassy-eyed Daley proceeded back down the aisle with his arm around his grandson.

Outside, Nora Daley consoled her weeping daughter as the Daleys filed into their limousines and proceeded to the family plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth that includes the graves of former Mayor Richard J. Daley, former First Lady Eleanor “Sis” Daley and other family members.

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