Norma Reyes, who served as Chicago's deputy chief of staff and commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection, died Monday. She was 56.
Reyes worked as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney for nine years before becoming chief assistant corporation counsel and later the deputy corporation counsel for the city’s Law Department.
From 2001 to 2003, Reyes served as deputy chief of staff under Mayor Richard Daley. She then became the city’s commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection in 2004 until her retirement in June 2011.
Reyes’ older sister, Lillian Reyes, 57, said the family is “heartbroken” by the loss. Reyes was one of seven siblings, all of whom lived in Chicago.
Lillian Reyes said the family did not know the cause of death and was waiting to hear from the medical examiner’s office Tuesday afternoon.
Lillian and Norma Reyes were born 11 months apart. The Reyes siblings grew up in Wicker Park and remain close, Lillian Reyes said.
“She was our everything. She was the air I breathed,” said Lillian Reyes through tears on Tuesday. “She did so much for the city of Chicago. She was an icon here.”
Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, held a moment of silence at the Budget Committee today for Reyes.
Austin said she was supposed to meet Monday with Reyes, but Reyes never showed up.
"To come in this morning to know that she transitioned into heaven just stopped me in my tracks," Austin said. She called Reyes "a good friend of ours and a dynamic commissioner."
Daley released a statement through a spokeswoman, praising Reyes.
"She was a wonderful person, always upbeat and always willing to help,” Daley said in the statement. "She had a fantastic sense of humor and a strong sense of duty to provide opportunities for the less fortunate. She was simply a very good person."
Patricia Jackowiak, chief administrative law judge for the city of Chicago, said she met Reyes in 1990 when she joined the law department. Jackowiak said Reyes was a “whirlwind.”
“She had a brilliant mind. She made her presence known and helped everybody,” Jackowiak said Tuesday. “She was passionate about the law, her family and friends.”
Jackowiak said Reyes never forgot where she came from and regularly gave back to Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. Reyes contributed to scholarship funds for young Latinos, Jackowiak said, especially young Latino women.
“You can reach a certain level in your life and you may forget where you came from,” Jackowiak said. “Not Norma. She would not forget to give back.”
Tribune reporter Hal Dardick contributed.