A Very Public, Very Painful Teardrop

John Linder Former Congressman
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John Donne wrote: “There is a democracy about death. It comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes.” My beautiful wife of 54 years, Lynne Peterson Linder, has died. Forgive me if I say this one is not equal at all. It is painfully, crushingly unique. My heart is broken.

We met in Deer River, Minnesota on a beautiful Sunday evening 19,767 days ago. My brother Bill and I played in a county league baseball game that afternoon and strolled over to Gram’s Kozy Korner for a milk shake.

A blue Buick convertible pulled up with a beautiful young lady driving. She asked for directions to Cedarwild Resort. We gave her directions and I asked her why she was in town. She said she was staying with her girl friend whose parents owned Cedarwild. She had bleached her friend’s hair that afternoon and it turned blue. She was sent to town to get some brown dye to repair the damage.

After she drove off I looked at my brother and said, “Let’s go meet the girl with the blue hair.”

We borrowed our aunt’s car and drove out to Cedarwild. Al Peterson came bounding out of the lodge and asked what he could for us. Bill made up some sketchy story about looking for a red Jeep. I said I couldn’t care less about the Jeep; I wanted to meet the girl with the blue hair.

He laughed and invited us into the house. It was Lynne. Her hair was blue and she was angry. Three months later we were married. She was 18 and I was 21.

When Lynne told her mother that we were going to get married, her mother said, “Lynne Linder. Sounds like a carnival ride.”

It’s been one hell of a ride.

Two days after we married I started dental school and Lynne started her first job. Our honeymoon was spent in one bedroom of the 600 square foot apartment of my cousin, her husband and their baby. We thought we were the luckiest two people in the world.

The first week we moved into our apartment Lynne went to the library and came home with an armload of books. She said she could travel the world without leaving the apartment. I started reading too. With the 3,500 books now lining our den, the library books over the years and the hundreds she gave away I estimated that over the past 54 years she’s read a book a week.

Lynne’s dad had an old Navy buddy who was president of Iowa Mutual Insurance Company in Minneapolis. Lynne had never held a job in her life, but she became his secretary. Within six months her boss had her interviewing and training new employees. She organized and kept records for a bowling league for another officer in the company. The next year she organized and managed her boss’ campaign for mayor of St. Louis Park. He won.

I learned an important lesson in life from her in those first two years. She took every job she was given and did her very best. She never wondered what others were doing. She never thought about the next job. That job in front of her, at that moment, was all that mattered.

That virtue landed her all manner of responsibilities over the years. And each one of them she treated the same. And each time she wound up running the show.

After dental school we spent two years in the Air Force and then moved to Atlanta to start our dental practice. I treated patients and Lynne ran the business. While she was handling the business side of a dental practice she also organized our new lending business, Linder Financial Corporation. She ran that business for several years, all while raising two children.

In 1977 she learned that her parents were deep in debt and risked losing Cedarwild Resort. Lynne bought the resort, paid off all the bills and gave them a life estate on the property. She let them keep the revenues and they could finally relax and enjoy their last few decades. Lynne handled the books and paid the bills for 30 years. When her father died she sold the resort and moved on.

She managed 18 political campaigns for me and was a vital ingredient in every one of them. Over 40 years in politics I made thousands of friends and many enemies. She made only friends.

One day in the 1992 race I came in from some event to see what was going on and I heard a roar of laughter coming out of the volunteer room. I asked what was so funny? Windy Wingate had just told them that if Lynne were the candidate this would be an easier race. He was, of course, correct.

Over the years she met Kings and Queens and Presidents and First Ladies. She was never in awe of anyone. She treated each with exactly the same respect and deference that she treated the yardman and the maid. To her they were just people like her with a different responsibility.

One night in Jerusalem she was seated next to Shimon Peres. They were deep in conversation and I inquired about what was so interesting. She said, “Never mind.” Peres laughed and said, “Mind your own business, John.”

Later on I asked her what they were talking about. She said, “Kids and grandkids.”

Here were two strangers, one a Nobel Laureate and former Prime Minister and the other merely a beautiful and captivating lady, talking about their kids. I wasn’t surprised.

Her manner of dealing with people taught me another of life’s lessons. That person in front of her, right then, was the most important person in the room. She never looked over anyone’s shoulder to see if there was someone more important that she should be speaking with.

When we retired she just wanted to spend more time with her boys. Grandsons Thomas and John and Matthew and Philip were the future of her family and she marveled at their growth. For the past nearly three years AJ has been the center of her life. The picture on my phone is a picture taken June 19th. She and AJ are sitting side by side in her chair, reading. They both were grinning at each other. Life was good.

Her first great-grandson was born in May. (For some strange reason we only get grandsons.) JC didn’t get the privilege of meeting this amazing woman, but our lives are a brief moment in the arc of eternity. He will meet her soon and he will fall deeply in love, just like his great-grandpa did 54 years ago.

John Steinbeck wrote: “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

Lynne’s brilliant light shone mostly to illuminate the good in every life she touched. The night is now dark. The stars and moon are gone. It will never be the same.

The very first prayer I ever said is now my last. “Now I lay her down to sleep. I pray thy Lord her soul to keep.”

Please pray for the repose of Lynne’s soul.

John Linder’s wife, Lynne, passed away on July 29th in Athens, Ga. There will be a memorial service honoring her life on August 12 at 10:00 am at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia. John can be contacted at linderje@yahoo.com