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Chicago’s First Lady: Maggie Daley on the Move

FROM OUR APRIL 1994 ISSUE: With good works and a deft political touch, Maggie has quietly carved a special role for herself. Now, the departure from Bridgeport has put her in the spotlight, and she doesn’t like being there.

(page 3 of 8)

At home, she isn’t afraid to let the mayor know her views. “She fights with him,” says another friend who knows them well. Shirley Ryan, who with her husband, insurance magnate Patrick Ryan, is close to both Daleys, recalls that the mayor told her recently, “People ask me what I think about reporters’ comments They must understand that the only person I really care if she likes me or not is Maggie.” The mayor supports her refusal to cooperate with the media. Referring to her charitable activities, he says, “She doesn’t get the publicity. She just does the work.”

The Daleys have three children: Nora, 20, who goes to college in New England but is studying in Europe this year; Patrick, 18, who is in his first year at West Poin;: and Elizabeth, 10, who is a fourth grader at Old St. Patrick’s  School, the elementary school attached to the popular Near West Side church. A fourth child Kevin, was born in 1979 and died 33 months later of spina bifida, a congenital disorder in which the spinal column does not close during pregnancy. When Kevin was born, Daley was a state senator in Springfield. For nearly two years, until the baby’s death, he traveled home from the state capital, a distance of some 200 miles, almost every night to be with Maggie and their son. Maggie told the Wall Street Journal in 1989 that after Kevin died, Rich gave her “lots of space, time for healing. He never said, ‘You’ve got to get over this, honey.’” The mayor has said on many occasions that the death of Kevin was the lowest point in his life.

The Daleys have always tried to shield their children from the media and the the public—perhaps a legacy of Rich Daley’s own difficulties in growing up as the son of a famous father. He once told the Tribune, “Everything I did was watched by reporters. I remember once when I ran a stoplight and it was on the front page. Why? Because of my name, that’s why.” Maggie and Rich Daley’s attitude was no doubt hardened two years ago in the burst of press scrutiny following a rowdy party thrown by Patrick, then 16, at the family’s Grand Beach, Michigan, summer home when his parents were away. Liquor was served to the underage revelers and the whole thing ended up in a nightmare of a brawl between Patrick’s Chicago friends and a group of Indiana locals. Racial slurs were hurled, a concrete lawn ornament was thrown through the windshield of the mayor’s new Chevy Blazer, a shotgun was brandished, and one Indiana kid got clubbed in the head with a baseball bat— an injury that required surgery to remove a blood clot. Patrick, though not involved in the fight, pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to minors and disturbing the peace. He was sentenced to six months’ probation, and was ordered to pay fines and court costs totaling $1,950 and to do 50 hours of service work last summer in Grand Beach.

The incident was hard on the Daleys; discussing it at a press conference, the mayor broke down in tears. “Daley kids don’t get busted for being in a cheap, sleazy racial brawl,” says Greg Hinz, Chicago’s political editor. “That upset him.”

Still, Dennis Wiley, the Berrien County prosecuting attorney, says the family was helpful and cooperative. “Given the fact that Patrick was dumb enough to have had a party that prompted all this,” Wiley says, “the Daleys made themselves fully available in whatever way was needed, even though they were in great pain over what had happened and under a lot of pressure from the media.”

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Many of Maggie Daley’s civic activities involve the Chicago Cultural Center—the old library, at Randolph and Michigan. She’s the chairwoman of the Chicago Cultural Center Foundation, which seeks to secure government and private funds for the programs at the Center. She is best known, though, for her role in creating and chairing Gallery 37, a summer arts program for kids, many of whom come from disadvantaged areas of town. The project was organized in 1990 in collaboration with cultural affairs commissioner Lois Weisberg and has won some corporate sponsorship. During the six-week program—held at Lot 37, the empty square block in the Loop—Gallery 37 students are tutored by professional artists in all mediums. And the kids make art. They are paid the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour, and if their art is sold, the proceeds go to fund future art programs.



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