‘She wished that she had spoken up more’: Why a Madison woman’s obituary asks people to donate to Ron Johnson’s 2022 opponent

Carol Rainey Lindeen of Madison died Feb. 24. In this photograph, she's surrounded by her children, Chris Lindeen (left), Megan Lindeen, Hillary Benson and Laurie Lindeen.

Carol Lindeen raised her children to avoid certain topics — like politics, religion and money — in mixed company.

“If you were at a social gathering, those were the three things, the three no-nos,” her daughter, Laurie Lindeen, said. “To keep the peace.”

But recently, Carol had some regrets about just how polite she’d been.

She was furious last week as she listened to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson speak during the Senate hearing on the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, her daughter said.

“We were watching TV and Ron Johnson was totally whitewashing and, you know, making January 6 sound like it was just a bunch of goofy people having fun. And she was just irate, so she was going off,” Laurie said. “She said she wished that she had spoken up more and done more and that she wanted to be a freedom fighter, which is something I’d never heard before.”

That was the last time Laurie saw her mother. Carol Lindeen, 81, died in her sleep the next day. 

Her obituary celebrated her love for “her children and grandchildren, her cat, Sam, books, friends, politics, and Chardonnay.”

It also noted her opinion of Johnson: “In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Ron Johnson’s opponent in 2022.”

“She just said she wished she had been more involved and outspoken to her convictions, so I figured this was my way of honoring that,” Laurie said.

Johnson has faced widespread criticism for his comments at the hearing, where he defended the Trump supporters gathered that day as overwhelmingly pro-police and suggested a small group of “provocateurs” turned unsuspecting marchers into an invading mob. The Oshkosh Republican also argued that police actions — firing tear gas into the crowd — altered the psychology of a previously peaceful gathering, turning pro-law enforcement demonstrators against the police. 

“Watching that that testimony with her, we were both flabbergasted,” Laurie said.

Johnson is expected to be a top target for Democrats during the 2022 elections if he decides to run for reelection. Those running for the seat include Democrats Tom Nelson and Alex Lasry

RELATED:As police warn of threat to blow up the Capitol, Ron Johnson says fencing and troops aren’t needed

But Lindeen may be the first person to take on Johnson in an obituary.

Carol, a longtime Madison resident, always had an independent streak. She was a political independent who once voted for Richard Nixon and liked John McCain, but “was still more of a Democrat,” Laurie said. 

Carol was born in Troy, New York, and spent her childhood summers in Kennebunkport, Maine. She attended Bradley University and married Lance Lindeen, living in Champaign, Ilinois, and St. Louis before settling in Madison in 1969.

Carol Lindeen was known for her impeccable fashion sense, her daughter said, and worked for years at Jan Byce’s Boutique at Hilldale Mall. 

Carol Rainey Lindeen of Madison died on Feb. 24. She's pictured here with her daughter, Laurie, on a Christmas morning in the 1970s.

She had legendary bridge parties and enjoyed “Badgers hockey games, book clubs, and evenings on the town at the Wonder Bar, Smoky’s, and always Parthenon Gyros,” at least when she wasn’t shuttling her children “to gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, and hockey, or leading Brownie, Girl Scout, and PTA meetings.”

She also went to see her daughter’s band, Zuzu’s Petals.

“She used to stand on tables at the UW Student Union and at O’Cayz Corral in Madison snapping pictures at Zuzu’s Petals shows and embarrassing me,” Laurie said. “In the old vernacular, she was a swell dame. She was fun. She was funny. I mean, she was cooler than me.”

Carol Rainey Lindeen, of Madison, died Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. This is a photograph of her from the 1960s.

Carol Lindeen is survived by her daughters, Laurie Lindeen (Jim Diem), Megan Lindeen (Peter Natzke) and Hillary Benson (Dirk); and son, Lance Christopher (Karen); niece, Brittaney Smith (Chris Kane); nephew, Kirk Smith (Robin); and grandchildren, Casey, Johnny, Jack, Ryan, Cassidy, Grace, Lila, and Scarlet; great-grandson, Caleb; and many cousins.

Laurie said that she’s gotten “a little blowback” over the obituary, but kept thinking of their last conversation.

“She said, ‘I wish I would have done more’ when we were watching him,” Laurie added. “So I just had to put that in.”

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.