Obituaries

Dorothy Mengering, 95, beloved late-night mom

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2007, file photo, David Letterman, right, the host of "The Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, and his mother Dorothy Mengering share a laugh during the dedication of the $21 million David Letterman Communication and Media Building on the campus in Muncie, Ind. Mengering died Tuesday, April 11, 2017, his publicist Tom Keaney confirmed. She was 95. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE/2007
Mrs. Mengering became a television hit in her 70s, playing it straight for her son, David Letterman, on his shows.

NEW YORK — David Letterman’s mother, Dorothy Mengering, a homemaker who became an unlikely celebrity in her 70s as she baked mystery pies and covered the Olympics for her son’s late-night show, died Tuesday. She was 95.

Letterman had been on the air for years, and had made ironic celebrities out of dozens of nobodies, before he thought to bring on his mom.

But the moment he did, she became a hit, with a cheerful ‘‘Hi, David!’’ in her Indiana accent starting every appearance.

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The two had great on-air chemistry, her homespun sincerity proving to be a foil for her son’s urban acerbity.

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Her first appearances came via satellite from her Carmel, Ind., kitchen for a segment called ‘‘Guess Mom’s Pies,’’ which became a Thanksgiving tradition. Letterman would make a huge production of the bit before finally declaring, usually correctly, ‘‘chocolate chiffon!’’ or ‘‘rhubarb!’’ When he was wrong, she would take on a comforting tone like he was a boy who had lost a Little League game.

Mrs. Mengering really became a star when the show took her out of the kitchen. She was a correspondent for Letterman’s Late Show on CBS at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, a role she reprised for the next two Winter Games, wearing bulky gear that made her tiny self almost invisible, and oozing pure sincerity even in absurd bits Letterman’s writers had her perform.

‘‘After Lillehammer, I couldn’t believe how it all took off,’’ Mrs. Mengering told The New York Times in 1996. ‘‘I think it’s about the idea of mom and of a family.’’

She lived all her life in Indiana. She married Letterman’s father, Harry, in 1942. He died in 1973, and she married structural engineer Hans P. Mengering, who died in 2013.

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Once famous, she put out a cookbook, 1996’s ‘‘Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom,’’ that included recipes such as ‘‘Dave’s Fried Baloney Sandwich.’’