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One year ago: Nancy M. Daly

October 2, 2010 |  6:00 am

DalyNancy M. Daly was a stay-at-home mom of three and wife of a prominent entertainment executive when she made a life-changing visit to MacLaren's Children's Center in El Monte in the late 1970s. The former probation center had been converted into a juvenile protection facility with little attention paid to making it less prison-like. "The kids looked sad," Daly recalled years later," and I found it almost unbearable."

Her determination to improve conditions at MacLaren's (which closed in 2003) turned her into a formidable children's advocate. In 1979, with allies such as actor Henry Winkler, she helped found United Friends of the Children to support youngsters in foster care. She successfully lobbied for the creation of what is now the county Department of Children and Family Services and served on its advisory commission. She later helped launch the Children's Action Network, which sought to raise awareness of children's issues in the entertainment industry and lobbied for legislation in Sacramento and Washington. She also served on the nonpartisan President's Commission on Children.

"She was the central, most important person on the commission for adolescence and foster care and the transition from foster care to adulthood," fellow commissioner Donald Cohen of the Yale Child Study Center said of Daly in 1994.

Daly, who was married to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordanafter her first marriage to former Warner Bros. chief executive Bob Daly ended in divorce, was also a philanthropist and arts leader. She died one year ago at 68.

For more on Nancy Daly, read Times staff writer Jean Merl's obituary.