The Cook County Board paid tribute to Maggie Daley on Wednesday, with Commissioner John Daley remembering his late sister-in-law and the impact she had on Chicagoans.
“She was a hope to people, she affected peoples’ lives,” Daley said. “Today, I met a woman who just said to me, she gave me hope. I’m living with cancer, I fight this every single day and I saw her go through it.”
Maggie Daley was 68 when she died on Thanksgiving evening, with former Mayor Richard Daley and her family at her side. She had been treated for metastatic breast cancer since 2002.
She is perhaps best known for her work with After School Matters, a nonprofit she founded to provide various programs for Chicago children after classes are done for the day. The organization had its roots in Gallery 37, which Maggie Daley co-founded as an art program in 1991 in a vacant lot in the Loop. Mrs. Daley also was an advocate for the city's museums and other cultural institutions, and many arts patrons have said she pushed her husband to be more supportive of them.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he is talking with the Daley family to try to figure out the best way to permanently acknowledge what she meant to Chicago. Renaming the Chicago Cultural Center is a possibility. A women's cancer center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital already bears her name. And DePaul University christened a building in its downtown campus after her and her husband.
The commissioner described his sister-in-law as someone who was the last to leave Christmas parties, and that she was one always encouraging others to dance to the end.
“That’s how I’ll remember her, the love, her smile, and, on behalf of my family, I would like to extend our gratitude,” Daley said. “As has been said, my mom saved the Cultural Center from the wrecking ball and Maggie was one who was able to preserve it. There’s many ways to remember her and I know I’ve said this before, and Dr. Seuss had a quote, let us not cry because it’s over, but let us smile because it happened. She brought a smile to everyone and I thank her.”
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who served as 4th Ward alderman before taking office last December, said she remembers encountering the former first lady at various events.
“My favorite, frankly, were the Christmas parties that the aldermen and the mayor had,” Preckwinkle said. “She was unfailingly the life of the party. The last one that I attended before I took this job, she insisted that all of us sing Christmas carols around the piano, and led the singing herself, and was just frankly a real joy to be around.”