You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

David Letterman's mom, who became unlikely star, dies at 95

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/12/2017
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) © The Associated Press 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)

NEW YORK (AP) — David Letterman's mother Dorothy Mengering, a Midwestern 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, has died. She was 95.

FILE - In this May 16, 2004, file photo, David Letterman's mother, Dorothy Mengering, talks with Timothy Kirby after she autographed a few of her cookbooks he bought at a grill in Muncie, Ind. Mengering was there to promote awareness of iodine deficiency around the world. Mengering died Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Letterman's publicist Tom Keaney confirmed. She was 95. (Kurt Hostetler/The Star Press via AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 16, 2004, file photo, David Letterman's mother, Dorothy Mengering, talks with Timothy Kirby after she autographed a few of her cookbooks he bought at a grill in Muncie, Ind. Mengering was there to promote awareness of iodine deficiency around the world. Mengering died Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Letterman's publicist Tom Keaney confirmed. She was 95. (Kurt Hostetler/The Star Press via AP, File)

Letterman's publicist Tom Keaney confirmed Mengering's death Tuesday for The Associated Press.

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.

The two had great on-air chemistry, her homespun sincerity proving the perfect foil for her son's urban acerbity.

Her first appearances came via satellite from her Carmel, Indiana, 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.

She soon started making annual Mother's Day appearances too.

She really became a star when the show took her out of the kitchen.

Mengering was a correspondent for the 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 snow 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," Mengering told The New York Times in 1996. "I think it's about the idea of mom and of a family."

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

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" and the secrets behind many of the pies she had baked for the show.

AdChoices
AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon