Dorothy Letterman Mengering

Dorothy Letterman Mengering
(7/18/1921 – 4/11/2017)

“As Dorothy breathed her last, a brilliant red cardinal landed on a branch outside her window, singing his song,” the late-night TV host David Letterman and his two sisters wrote in their mother’s obituary in the Indianapolis Star, noting that The Song of the Cardinal by Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter was one of their mother’s favorite books.

Dorothy Mengering shares a laugh with her son, David Letterman, longtime host of the ‘Late Show’ on CBS. Known affectionately as “Dave’s Mom,” Mengering died in her Carmel, IN home on April 11, 2017, at the age of 95. Photo credit: Michael Conroy, AP

“Dave’s Mom,” as she became known, was born Dorothy Marie Hofert in 1921 in Linton, Indiana, the oldest of three children. After graduating from the local high school, she began studying business skills at Indiana University, returning home each weekend. On those weekends, she spent time with H. Joe Letterman, a church organist and florist. They married in 1942 and moved to Indianapolis, where Mr. Letterman opened a flower shop. Dorothy helped him in the shop, and they raised three children, Jan, Dave, and Gretchen. She also began work at Second Presbyterian as a church secretary.

Joe Letterman died in 1973 and Dorothy continued working at the church as she followed the lives of her children and grandchildren. She also met her second husband, Hans P. Mengering, whom she married in 1983, and the two frequently traveled.

Dorothy began her appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in 1986, with her first (and only) in-person appearance. Dave would call her during the show beginning in 1990, and she would answer his silly questions. In 1994, Dorothy began on-camera appearances several times a year from her Carmel, Indiana kitchen where Dave would try to guess what pie she had made. Sometimes she read Top Ten Lists that poked fun at Dave. Her appearances with athletes and First Lady Hillary Clinton also began in 1994 at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and these interviews led to her landing interviews with big name athletes and celebrity spectators at later Olympics in 1998 and 2002. These appearances added to her immense popularity as her sincerity and happy charm won over many fans. She even wrote a cookbook in 1996, Home Cookin’ with Dave’s Mom.

Family was always extremely important to her, especially her grandchildren, whose births spanned from 1967 to 2003. Hans Mengering died in 2013, and Dorothy died of natural causes in the spring of 2017, one day shy of Dave’s 70th birthday. She was surrounded by her family and accompanied by the brilliant red cardinal that landed on a branch outside her window, singing his song.

Buried in Section 46, Lot 117; GPS (39.8203004, -86.1708197)