1929-2015 Margaret McNally, Northbrook mother of 10, dead at 85

SHARE 1929-2015 Margaret McNally, Northbrook mother of 10, dead at 85
SHARE 1929-2015 Margaret McNally, Northbrook mother of 10, dead at 85

Margaret McNally lived in a 19-room house in Northbrook, but she didn’t let any of her 10 kids have their own bedroom. She didn’t want them to be spoiled.

Her children went on to success in medicine, politics, finance, law, broadcasting and Hollywood.

Mrs. McNally’s husband of 60 years, Dr. Randall McNally, a plastic surgeon, once operated on a girl who was in one of the most famous news photos of all time: Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a little girl burned by napalm in Vietnam. He also was a “cut man” who stitched and rearranged broken cheekbones, jaws and eye sockets for the Chicago Blackhawks in the era before helmets and facemasks were common. Among the players he tended were Hawks legends Bobby Hull, Keith Magnuson and Stan Mikita.

Mrs. McNally died Wednesday in Northbrook. She was 85.

“Our mother never once told us that all she wanted was for her children to be happy,” said her son, Edward McNally. “She recognized that happiness was only the product of meaningful work, devotion to faith, family, community and service to others.”

The former Margaret Anne Kenny was born in West Bend, Wis. Her father, Delbert Kenny, was president for 25 years of the B.C. Ziegler financial company. She graduated from St. Louis University, where she met her future husband. He grew up in a bungalow at 84th and Wood and went to Mount Carmel High School. They married in 1953, and their 10 children followed over 14 years — none of them twins. All attended Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook.

Margaret and Randall McNally on their wedding day.

Mrs. McNally told the kids they didn’t need to bring home good grades or athletic trophies, just “use whatever gifts God gave you to the absolute best of your ability,” said her daughter Tara Montgomery, who has worked as an executive producer for Oprah Winfrey. “Mom always said to be kind to people, you never know what someone else is going through.”

Another daughter, McNally Sagal, is an actress who has appeared in “Sons of Anarchy” with her sister-in-law, Katey Sagal. In 1998, she appeared on the finale of TV’s “Seinfeld.” Three days earlier, she was a guest star on the show “Ally McBeal.”

Three children went into medicine — Sheila McNally, a surgical nurse; Maureen Morrissey, a physical therapist; and Dr. Thomas McNally, a spinal surgeon. Two entered business: Patrick, an executive with Underwriters Laboratories, and Ryan, a trader at the Chiago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Another son, Edward McNally, was the first general counsel for homeland security at the White House after the 9/11 attacks. He also worked as a speechwriter in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Two of Mrs. McNally’s children died before her. Her first daughter, Anne, 22, took her own life while studying occupational therapy at Northwestern University. In 1994, Lt. Cmdr. Rand McNally, a Navy reserve pilot, crashed into the waters off of San Francisco in the jet he was flying. He had just graduated from Stanford Law School.

Still, she was able to maintain a philosophy that Sheila McNally described asthis way: “Dance, have fun, laugh. When you’re invited to a party, go. Buy that car, go on that vacation, use the good china.”

And, she advised her children, “You should like the people who like you.”

Margaret and Randall McNally.

Her husband, a longtime physician at Rush University Medical Center, met Phan Thi Kim Phuc when he was in Saigon to recover the remains of Mrs. McNally’s brother, Thomas, and his family, who were on a Cathay Pacific flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong that exploded in 1972. A Thai police officer whose girlfriend and daughter were aboard was implicated in a life insurance scheme linked to the crash.

While in Vietnam, Dr. McNally volunteered at a children’s hospital and performed skin grafts on “The Girl in the Photograph,” according to a 1999 issue of Plastic Surgery News. They met again when she was an adult. “It was a wonderful and unexpected reunion,” Dr. McNally told the publication. “She has grown up to be a beautiful young woman.”

Mrs. McNally’s kids marvel at how she kept such a beautiful home.

“With 10 rambunctious children, she kept and maintained a bigger and better house than any of us have been able to do with smaller homes and families,” Edward McNally said. “Her entire house was always put together perfectly, like a model house.”

Mrs. McNally is also survived by a sister, Janet Kenny Koehn; a brother, Patrick D.J. Kenny; 30 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Northbrook, with the funeral to follow at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

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