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Subject: Ed McCaskey, 83; Former Singer, Salesman Was Chicago Bears Exec

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Date Posted: April 10, 2003 7:52:17 EDT

Ed McCaskey, a former singer who married the daughter of Chicago Bears founder George Halas and went on to become chairman of the National Football League team, died Tuesday at his home in Des Plaines, Illinois. He was 83 and had been in failing health in recent months.

McCaskey was a salesman and a singer in a dance band when he met Virginia Halas. The two married in 1943.

In 1967, McCaskey became vice president and treasurer of the Bears. He held that position for 17 years until George Halas' death in 1983, when he became chairman of the board.

"When George died, he wanted Virginia to have control of the team," McCaskey once said. "Money was not important to the Halas family.

"As long as there was enough to eat on the table, it was fine," he said. "All that was important to them was the Bears, the Bears, the Bears."

Though McCaskey turned the team over to his son, Michael, in 1984, he kept a close eye on the Bears. He served on several NFL committees.

It was Ed McCaskey who suggested to Halas that players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo room together in the mid-1960s, making the Bears one of the first NFL teams to have interracial roommates.

Above all, McCaskey and his wife loved their team. It was their decision to turn day-to-day control over to someone outside the family in 1999, when the team's fortunes had declined. They promoted Michael McCaskey to chairman and made Ted Phillips the team president and CEO.

Ed McCaskey was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Lancaster, Pa. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he served in the Army in Europe during World War II.

He is survived by his wife and 11 children, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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