The widow of the former Chicago mayor and mother of current Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley suffered a stroke Sunday afternoon and died at home surrounded by members of her family, said Jacqueline Heard, a spokesman for her son.
A Chicago native, she lived her entire life in the tight-knit Bridgeport neighborhood long associated with the political clan, which also includes her son, former U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley.
"She was the Daley matriarch, but in a lot of ways she was also Chicago's matriarch," Heard said, adding that Daley's March 4 birthday coincided with the anniversary of Chicago's founding.
Daley was hospitalized after a fall and minor stroke in December 2001, and in early February 1999 for an irregular heartbeat.
She eschewed the political limelight and focused her energy on raising her seven children and offering private support to her husband, who ran Chicago's Democratic machine for 21 years until his death in 1976.
Still, friends say she had influence.
"I'm sure there are a lot of things she was responsible, truth be told," longtime family friend and Chicago alderman Edward Burke told the Chicago Tribune. "I have it on good authority that she was not reluctant to make her opinion known to the mayor."
The couple married in Bridgeport in 1936 and soon moved into a neighborhood bungalow that became the family bunker for decades, off limits to outside politicians and reporters.
In a rare public outburst, she displayed her fierce family loyalty by demanding in 1971 that a local grocery chain stop selling an unflattering book about her husband by noted columnist Mike Royko, calling it "trash" and "hogwash."
"Of course the criticisms bother me," she once said. "I'm the buffer between my husband and his office. But I know the man his enemies portray as a 'deeze-dem-doze' guy is an intelligent man."
Her son Richard, who has his father's popularity without the reputation of political bossism, has been mayor since 1989.
Other survivors include sons John, a Cook County commissioner, and Michael, a Chicago lawyer; two daughters, Mary Carol and Patricia; and several grandchildren. A third daughter, Eleanor, died in 1998 at age 56.
Funeral arrangements were pending, Heard said.
By Nathaniel Hernandez