The real Maggie Daley: Warm, charming – tough as nails

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12-21-10 DePaul University School for New Learning, 14 E. Jackson Blv........ Mayor Richard M. Daley and wife Maggie attend the DePaul University “Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building” dedication ceremony. ..Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Maggie’s story …

Who was Maggie Daley, really?

The doyenne of an intensely private family, stories circulated only among the trusted few; friends kept mum; betrayal of that trust generally meant exclusion from the center of Chicago’s most powerful couple.

Thus, the eulogy at Maggie Daley’s funeral Monday at Old St. Pat’s church ­ ­ ­– where Maggie and the mayor never took upfront seats – deified her for her good works and love of family but left us wondering about the little things that make up a whole life.

Her beloved son Patrick opened that door a little. What he said was so dear … it left me wanting more.

I lunched with Maggie once and talked to her on the phone a few times. But I didn’t know her at all.

So here’s what I’ve been told by anonymous sources who knew her well.

She was …

â—† Wonderful, but she was as tough as nails. “She was on top of everything and brooked no nonsense. She was incredibly warm and charming, but if you got on the wrong side of her – Bridget bar the door!”

â—† A wife whose husband was her best friend. “They were incredibly close. In other words, they were best buddies.”

â—† Not a spendthrift. “She liked saving her money and paid down the mortgage on their house way in advance. Rather than buy new furniture, she frequently had their furniture reupholstered.”

â—† A constant traveler. “Her passion for travel was non-stop. Maggie would accompany Rich on business trips – but then head off on side trips on her own with friends. She traveled constantly while he was in office. She loved Italy and Paris especially.”

â—† A tennis player who tried to play once a week until a few years ago and always took her racket to Florida.

â—† An early riser.

â—† A tea drinker. “She liked tea she ordered from a company that came in different flavor packets.”

â—† A lover of flowers, Maggie had the numerous floral bouquets sent to her house dispatched to her office at the cultural center. “At Christmas time, at least 50 huge poinsettia plants were sent to the house she had to give away. There was no room.”

â—† A lover of hats and the bejeweled ceramic pill boxes her husband bought for her at Christmas.

â—† A woman who encouraged her friends and children to always look on the bright side. “She had the most beautiful smile, and in spending time with her, you really found out what nice was all about.”

â—† Intensely devoted to her children. “Her family was her life. Patrick, Nora, Lally, her three grandchildren. And pictures of their beloved son Kevin (who died of spina bifida) populate their living and working spaces.”

â—† A hoarder. “Their garage was always full of stuff and Maggie was always complaining about cleaning it out.”

â—† A worker. “Maggie liked the work she was doing for children. She just wanted to get the kids off the streets … and if she could do it for just one, it would all be worth it.”

â—† The upshot: Maggie Daley would never have tried to immortalize herself. She was an exceptional woman, mother, wife, friend, advocate for children.

â—† Her legacy: The belief she was no greater than the expectation we should all have for ourselves as wives, mothers, friends and advocates for those who need one.

Maggie in our midst was marvelous.

The Daley wake …

What was not noted but not unnoticed at Maggie Daley’s wake at the Cultural Center Sunday: Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and wife, Patti, who was sobbing uncontrollably. “It was sad to watch,” said the source. “She obviously has more tears ahead.” Her husband is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Sneedlings …

Today’s birthdays: Rahm Emanuel, 52, Howie Mandel, 56, and Garry Shandling, 62.

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