Bears lose one of their own

The popularity of the Bears ownership has been in question for years, but there was no doubting the sincere kindness of Ed McCaskey.

McCaskey, the club's Chairman Emeritus and the National Football League's long-reigning troubadour, died Tuesday at the family home in suburban Des Plaines.

McCaskey, 83, was the son-in-law of Bears founder George Halas. Ed and his wife Virginia have 11 children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

"Today the entire Bears organization suffered a great loss in the passing of Ed McCaskey," said Ted Phillips, President and CEO. "Ed's leadership and his love of life gave all of us at the Chicago Bears a real sense of family. He will be greatly missed.

"Ed was a mentor, a sounding board and a trusted confidante not only to me, but to many individuals throughout the National Football League. My prayers and sympathy are with Virginia and the entire McCaskey family."

Football became McCaskey's life when he married Virginia in 1943. Coach Halas insisted he join the organization in 1967. Before that, Ed was a top salesman for E. F. MacDonald, but his first love was his love of music. Many will remember with joy how he would often enter a room singing in the spirit of the big band era.

A key "insider" to Bears issues, McCaskey was the guy who could help a player over a thorny issue or support a coach when the going got tough. If you worked for the Bears, Ed was there for you. When one of his favorite Bears, Brian Piccolo, battled cancer so valiantly, Ed was the rock to support Brian and Joy.

Ed was a giver. Because of his efforts, the Piccolo Fund was born and millions of dollars were generated for cancer research. He was a long time supporter of Maryville Academy and had many other charitable interests.

Ed was born April 27, 1919. He grew up in Lancaster, Pa., and he played tackle at Lancaster Catholic High School. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, McCaskey served in the Army's 80th Infantry in France during World War II. He entered the war as a private and emerged as a captain. He won a Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge for his performance in combat.

McCaskey was a popular figure within the NFL, referred to by some as the "conscience" of the league, as well as a sounding board for many of its leaders. He loved to talk about his Irish heritage and it reflects his legacy: A love of family, of friends, of the Bears, and of his music. Not to mention a good joke or a promising young thoroughbred.

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to send contributions to Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois.

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