She met him while teaching English to the spindly Italian immigrant in a Nazareth, Pa. school and a few months later Dee Ann Hoch became Mrs. Mario Andretti in November of 1961.
And for the better part of the six decades Dee Ann Andretti raised their three children, tried to maintain some small-town normalcy and stayed in the background while her globe-trotting husband became one of the world’s most famous and successful race drivers of all time.
Dee Ann passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 76, after suffering a massive heart attack a few weeks ago and never regaining consciousness. Grandson Marco confirmed the news via Twitter:
Mario Andretti left her bedside in intensive care last weekend to go to Road America and was noticeably distraught, only saying the next few days were critical and she needed everyone’s prayers.
While her husband was and is still IndyCar’s goodwill ambassador and Firestone spokesman making appearances all over the country, Dee Ann followed him in the early days of his USAC career before their three children entered the picture. Thereafter she became more of a homebody who cheered on her hubby and their sons Michael and Jeff on television as they rose up the open-wheel ranks. She made occasional trips of support to the races but fewer and fewer in the past 15 years.
The Andrettis never left Nazareth and maintained friendships for the better part of 60 years, with Michael and Marco living close by at various times.
“Everyone at Hulman & Company sends our condolences to the Andretti family on the passing of Dee Ann Andretti,” INDYCAR said in a statement.
“She was the matriarch of one of the most prominent families in motorsports history. It was with Dee Ann’s love and support that her husband, children and grandchildren have thrived in racing for more than five decades, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and around the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mario, their children Michael, Jeff and Barbie, and the rest of the Andretti family.”
Sons Michael and Jeff and daughter Barbie Dee survived their mother, along with seven grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.