Margaret "Maggie" (Corbett) Daley, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and the former first lady of Chicago, has died after a nine-year battle with breast cancer.
She was 68 years old.
Her death comes just days after she witnessed her youngest daughter, Elizabeth "Lally" Daley, get married in a hastily-planned ceremony.
News of Mrs. Daley's death was announced by the family's longtime spokeswoman, Jackie Heard. She said the former first lady was with her husband and surrounded by family and Fr. Jack Wall when she passed at 6:30 p.m.
Mrs. Daley's oncologist Dr. Steve Rosen said Maggie was "comfortable today." Rosen describes her "as angelic" and that "she was a remarkable, very special person." Rosen was at the Daley home Thursday morning and was called back to the home Thursday night.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "Chicago has lost a warm and gracious First Lady who contributed immeasurably to our city."
"While Mayor Daley served as the head of this city, Maggie was its heart," Emanuel in a statement. "Of all her accomplishments, Maggie’s most treasured role was as a wife, mother, and grandmother."
"Tonight, the State of Illinois lost a great treasure," Gov. Pat Quinn said. "Maggie Daley was a woman for all seasons who treated Chicago residents like family and served up hope and inspiration wherever she went."
Born Margaret Corbett in Pittsburgh, Penn., she was the youngest of seven children. She was a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in history. In 1970 while working in Chicago, she met a young Richard M. Daley at a Christmas party. Their first date was on New Years Eve.
At the time she was working for the Xerox Learning Systems, part of Xerox Education Group as an account executive. They were married in 1972, the same year Daley was elected to the Illinois Senate.
Together the Daleys had four children: Nora, Patrick , Kevin -- who died of spina bifida at the age of three -- and Lally.
Over the years, Mrs. Daley became publicly involved in disability issues. She began volunteering at Pathways Foundation, an organization which raises awareness about the benefits of early detections and therapy for children with physical disabilities. In 1988 she became the creator and president of the foundation "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors Program" within Pathways, which promotes inclusive and accessible houses for worship for all faiths.
She was best known, however, as the chair of the "After School Matters" (ASM) program, which provides teenagers with engaging activities in the after-school hours. ASM later merged with Chicago’s Gallery 37, which uses art to employ people of all ages with creative and vocational skills.
As Chicago’s first lady, Ms. Daley steered away from the political world her husband embraced, as a gentler spotlight fell on her.
Maggie Daley was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002 while she and her husband were in Ireland. She began a series of chemotherapy treatments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. At the time, the survival rate for metastasized breast cancer was one to two years. Remarkably, over and over, Maggie Daley beat the odds.
In 2006 a tumor was found in her right breast, and a one-hour hour surgery to remove it was a success.
Afterward, Mrs. Daley maintained working on the projects close to her heart, including After School Matters and Gallery 37, with little notice given to her illness. In April of 2009, she was singled out at a Washington gala as an advocate for the awareness she raised for the youth of the inner city.
"It will be a challenge, but it is a challenge we should meet. And I am going to put every ounce of energy into this," she said in an interview discussing ASM and the struggles during tough economic times.
One could compare this statement to her fight against the challenge of a deadly disease.
In December 2009, the cruel reality of her disease took a turn for the worse when doctors found a new tumor in her right leg. She was told to use a wheelchair while undergoing radiation. Dedicated and passionate to her charitable efforts, she kept up her public appearances.
"She has been a remarkable person who continues to do wonderfully well as we continue to reassess what next steps would be best. Fortunately, the therapy has continued to evolve with new options," her physician, Dr. Steven Rosen, said at the time.
Mrs. Daley underwent a second leg operation in March 2010, when a titanium rod was put into her leg to reduce the risk of a fracture and later began rehab. Her absence at numerous events afterward were blamed on continual pain.
In April of that year, and shortly after learning that her leg had been fractured, Mrs. Daley was on-hand for the dedication of a Northwestern University Hospital cancer center named in her honor. The Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care is a two-floor center for women dealing with breast cancer.
"My wish is that this will be a place of nourishment for all women," she said at the ceremony.
Through it all, Maggie Daley battled cancer with a quiet but firm grace, publicly undeterred against great odds.
She was a living testament to what Winston Churchill once said: "It is the courage to continue that counts."