Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne dies

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Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne died Friday.

Byrne had been in failing health for years and grew weaker the last few days, according to her daughter, Kathy Byrne. She died shortly after 10 a.m. while in hospice care in a high-rise near the Water Tower downtown, she said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

“With the passing of Mayor Jane Byrne, the City of Chicago has lost a great trailblazer.   Mayor Byrne was a Chicago icon who lived a remarkable life of service to our city. From signing the first ordinance to get handguns off of our streets, to bringing more transparency to the City’s budget, to creating the Taste of Chicago, Mayor Byrne leaves a large and lasting legacy. And as the first woman to serve as Mayor, she will always have a special place in our history.   I was deeply honored that she attended my inauguration, and, in turn, it was my privilege to sign our City’s ordinance officially dedicating the plaza surrounding our iconic Water Tower in her honor.   The thoughts and prayers of the people of Chicago are with her daughter Kathy and her many friends at this difficult time.”

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley also released the following statement: "Mayor Jane Byrne was 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."

Byrne had stunned the city’s political establishment in 1979 when she became the first and only female mayor by toppling an incumbent backed by the fabled and still formidable Democratic machine.  She gradually faded from public view after losing a reelection bid in 1983.

On Friday, Governor-elect Bruce Rauner issued the following statement:

"I'm saddened to learn of the death of Mayor Byrne. She was a pioneer and will be missed by all. The City of Chicago owes her a huge debt of gratitude. My thoughts and prayers are with her daughter, Kathy, and her family."

Byrne appeared at a dedication ceremony for the renaming of the Circle Interchange in her honor back in August.  Her supporters said it’s fitting that her legacy will be honored right in the middle of Chicago.  She spoke briefly to the media after the ceremony, praising the city she once ran.

According to the Chicago Tribune, her daughter, Kathy Byrne, said it was "uncanny" that her mother died after the city and the state began honoring her by naming Water Tower Park and the Circle Interchange after her. "It’s amazing timing,"’ she said. "That all this happened and now she passed away. But she passed away knowing that all these things occurred and knowing how beloved she was to Chicago.

Funeral arrangements are scheduled for Monday November 17th. Visitation will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Vincent De Paul at 1010 West Webster. The funeral mass begins immediately after that at 11 a.m.

Byrne will be buried at Calvary Cemetery in Evanston.

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.

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