Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey turns 100

Bears coach Matt Eberflus called her “always encouraging, always upbeat, always thoughtful.”

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Virginia McCaskey speaks at Soldier Field to honor Brian Urlacher in 2018.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Shortly after he was named Bears coach a year ago, Matt Eberflus spoke to Virginia McCaskey on the phone.

“She goes, ‘Matt, you know I’ll be your biggest fan,’ ” he said Wednesday.

It was, he would learn, part of her personality.

“Always encouraging, always upbeat, always thoughtful,” he said. “And it’s been a joy to get to know her this last year.”

Thursday, though, will be a special day — the Bears’ matriarch and a direct link to the founding of the NFL, turns 100 years old.

“From a historical standpoint with the Bears and what she’s seen and been a part of, I kind of like to think of her like the Queen of Chicago,” said tight end Cole Kmet, a Chicago area native. “She’s like royalty. It’s pretty amazing stuff. She’s been around. She takes great pride in this organization, and we all feel that from the top down.”

McCaskey, who is technically the secretary of the Bears’ board of directors, has been the oldest owner in American professional sports for the last nine years.

Born on Jan. 5, 1923, McCaskey has been alive for all but 36 of the Bears’ 1,451 games. She spent her third birthday on the Red Grange barnstorming tour that helped jump-start professional football, and attended her first playoff game at 9.

Her father, George Halas, founded the Bears and helped start the league. She and her late husband, Ed McCaskey, whom she married in 1943, raised eight boys and three girls in Des Plaines. She inherited the Bears from “Papa Bear” after his death in 1983. She told the Sun-Times in a 2019 interview that, starting that day, her “main focus” was to “justify my dad’s faith in me.”

Her son George oversees day-to-day operations as the Bears’ chairman, working alongside outgoing president/CEO Ted Phillips and five other board members. Three of those are McCaskeys.

Eberflus described the private McCaskey as “very impactful” to the culture at Halas Hall. She huddled with Eberflus at a Bears charity gala and treated his wife to lunch at Halas Hall. The team’s annual Virginia Award is given to an employee who displays grace, humility, loyalty and dedication.

She made a rare appearance in 2019 to celebrate the Bears’ 100th anniversary. Speaking to thousands of fans at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, McCaskey said she was “still trying to find words” for what the Bears meant to her — and, she hoped, the fan base.

“It has made me even more grateful for what my life has been, and the position that I’m in,” she said then. “There’s so many privileges and perks and blessings. I just can’t believe I’m here and I’m enjoying life, at my age, the way I am.”

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