CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Mayor Jane Byrne, the first and only woman to serve as mayor of Chicago, has died.
Byrne’s daughter, Kathy Byrne, has told family friends her mother died at 10 a.m., resting comfortably at her North Side home.
Jane Byrne was 81 years old.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent reports the trailblazing Byrne — who served as mayor from 1979 to 1983 — was never dull or uninteresting, and fought right up until her death. She was not only the first female mayor of Chicago, but the first woman elected mayor of any major U.S. city.
Byrne had entered hospice care this week, and died of complications from a stroke she suffered in January 2013.
Her declining health kept her out of the public eye for the past couple years, except when the Circle Interchange was renamed the Jane Byrne Interchange. The City Council also recently voted to rename the plaza outside the Old Chicago Water Tower after Byrne, but a formal renaming ceremony was not held before her death.
Purple bunting was hung outside City Hall on Friday in tribute to Byrne.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Byrne “a Chicago icon who lived a remarkable life of service to our city.” Emanuel paid tribute to Byrne as he was dedicating a plaque to the late Mayor Harold Washington — the man who defeated Byrne in her bid for reelection in 1983 — at the downtown library named in Washington’s honor.
“She didn’t just blaze a new trail for women in politics, she blazed a new trail forward for a better future for the entire city of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “We remember her, we honor her, we thank her, and we put her entire family in our prayers as a city.”
Gov. Pat Quinn called Byrne “a barrier breaker and a role model for countless women.”
“Jane Byrne leaves a legacy of tireless service to Chicago that will never be forgotten,” he said in a written statement. “Her work on behalf of the city’s children and underserved communities has meant thousands of Chicago citizens are better off today because of Jane’s heartfelt dedication.”
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, a frequent political rival of Byrne’s, called her “a woman of strength, courage and commitment.”
“She was a pioneer in public service whose impact on this city will remain for years to come. On behalf of the entire Daley family, I extend my deepest condolences to the Byrne family,” Daley said.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the dean of the City Council, described Byrne as smart, accomplished and tough.
He led the effort to have the city honor Byrne earlier this year by renaming the park at the Water Tower after her. Burke said Byre brought a new international sensibility to the city of broad shoulders.
“Expansion of the International Terminal at O’Hare rally began under Jane. That economic engine that O’Hare represents was nurtured by Jane Byrne,” he said. “The attitude of making the civic part of our metropolitan area a fun experience, with Chicago Fest, and the other festivals, I think did a lot to change the attitude of the municipality.”