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Maggie Daley Funeral: Former First Lady Helped Shape Chicago

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MAGGIE DALEY FUNERAL
Charlene Murray of Chicago stands outside Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Chicago during the funeral of former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley Monday, Nov., 28, 2011. Mrs. Daley died Nov. 24 after a long battle with cancer. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) | AP

CHICAGO — Dignitaries from the highest ranks of government grieved alongside ordinary citizens Monday as the woman who served as Chicago's first lady for 22 years was remembered as an inspiration to cancer patients and a passionate woman who helped shape the identity of this tough, but sentimental city.

Hundreds gathered inside one of Chicago's oldest churches for Maggie Daley's funeral Mass, while others stood outside, listening to the service over a loudspeaker. The wife of former Mayor Richard Daley died Thursday after a long fight with breast cancer. She was 68.

The high-profile attendees were just one sign of the powerful Daley family's prominence and showcased the growing role of the president's hometown in national politics. Mourners included current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and filmmaker George Lucas.

The Rev. John Wall of Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church said "our Maggie" was the backbone of the Daley family and helped build the city's character with her love of the arts and education.

"A city is just a legal entity ... but we know how much more the city of Chicago is," Wall said. "Rich always said, `The city's gotta have a soul,' and Mayor Emanuel said, `And the heart of the city was Maggie.' She and Rich offered this great vision of inclusivity."

Maggie Daley was a patron of the arts known for her love of flowers, particularly pink tulips. A tulip named for her – "Tulipa Maggie Daley" – is planted along the city's Magnificent Mile shopping district. In 1991, she launched After School Matters, which provides afterschool programs in the arts, science, sports and technology for high school students.

Her dedication to the arts helped transform the Chicago Cultural Center, which was once the city's old central library, into an architectural gem. Her public wake was held there Sunday with hundreds of people waiting in the rain to pay respects. Many mourners – particularly female cancer survivors – said they saw Maggie Daley as an inspiration who maintained a vibrant public life while going through immense personal struggles.

The music at her funeral – performed by a piano-accompanied choir and string ensemble – included songs from Broadway musicals, hymns and work by Liam Lawton, an Irish Roman Catholic priest who had been invited to Chicago by the church with Maggie Daley's help years ago.

Wall said the Daley family set an example for other city residents, pointing to Maggie Daley's directives to keep Sundays as a family day and free of mayoral business.

On Monday, the former mayor held his hand on his heart and watched solemnly as the motorcade and hearse bearing his wife's casket arrived at the church, led by an Irish bagpipe band playing a song called "Maggie," among other selections. Pallbearers included Bill Daley, the former mayor's brother and the White House chief of staff.

Family and friends remarked on her love for children.

"She cared so much about children and she fought so hard to give them opportunities, children that other folks might have given up on," Duncan told reporters after the service. "The best way we can honor her and her legacy is to keep giving young people opportunities to fulfill their potential. That's what she understood intuitively."

The Daleys' three surviving children – son Kevin died as a child from complications related to spina bifida – remembered their mother as full of passion and someone who led by example.

Nora Daley Conroy and Lally Daley Hotchkiss stood with their brother, Patrick Daley, as he spoke about how she lived her life as an example to others.

"She enjoyed life, laughter and the occasional piece of dark chocolate," he said. "Mom wasn't a softie. Mom demanded excellence."

Patrick Daley said his mother loved Chicago and was devoted to numerous causes, but always made time for family.

"Mom and dad's love was a true partnership. With all her commitments, she always had the time to simply be our mother," he said. "Mom, we thank you, we love you, we miss you and hold Kevin close until we see you again."

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Sophia Tareen can be reached at . http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

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