In a eulogy both sweet and witty, David Letterman shared an old family story about his mother and a snake.
Spotting a threatening-looking snake in her Indianapolis garden, Dorothy Mengering calmly went into the house, grabbed a hoe and hacked off its head.
"My mother is Grizzly Adams for God's sake," Letterman said.
The former late-night comedian spoke to family and friends who gathered Saturday at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis to mourn the death of Mengering, fondly remembering his mother's life while making the crowd laugh.
Mengering, who sometimes acted as a correspondent on her son's late-night television show, died at her home in Carmel on Tuesday. She was 95.
Her son and grandchildren spoke to dozens of mourners, describing a woman who was resilient, hard working and independent, as well as a nurturing presence in her children and grandchildren's lives.
Mengering's family members recalled walks on Florida beaches and her love of cooking and gardening. The woman was a beloved maternal figure for many in Indianapolis, described by a friend as "everyone's mom."
She also was well-known to viewers of Letterman's show, acting as a correspondent during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway (1994); Nagano, Japan (1998); and Salt Lake City (2002).
Letterman remembered executives telling him: "We should have your mother on the show all the time. No, we're serious," he recalled them saying. "People like her better than you."
The comedian attributed his work ethic to his mother, describing her as a whirlwind presence who was always busy, whether it be growing fresh vegetables, waxing the floors on her hands and knees and even killing snakes.
"We didn't want for anything because of my mom," he said.
Born Dorothy Marie Hofert in Linton on July 18, 1921, she married a florist, Joe Letterman, in 1942. Joe died in 1973. They had three children, Jan, David and Gretchen, who attended Broad Ripple High School. Later, Mengering took a job working at Second Presbyterian and married Hans Mengering in 1983.
Mengering's granddaughter, Annagrace Letterman Shelton, remembered her grandmother as quietly opinionated and a supporter of women's rights. Another granddaughter, Bryn Millholland Mooth, spoke of her grandmother's homemade noodles and raspberry chiffon pie.
"I was deeply proud of her independence and resilience," Millholland Mooth said.
IndyStar reporters Dave Lindquist and Amy Bartner contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Madeline Buckley at (317) 444-6083. Follow her on Twitter: @Mabuckley88.
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