Minnesota’s Dave Lethert Passes Away

Dave Lethert - obituary 0423

Dave Lethert

Dave Lethert, founder of Mendota Valley Amusement, passed away April 7, surrounded by his family, at the age of 89. (Dave retired many years back; his well-known son Bill runs the operation, which serves Minnesota’s Twin Cities and beyond.)


Dave was in coin-op at some level since the 1950s. In an article on the company (RePlay, March 2006), Bill described his father as a “boy genius” who was fixing pin games as a teen and started operating in malt shops and taverns long before he was of legal age to be in the bar locations. 


Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Dave started a two-way radio business in the 1960s and then founded Mendota Valley Amusement in 1972. Following the divesture of AT&T and the growth of the telecommunications industry back in the 1980s, Dave’s radio business grew into a telephone interconnect firm, and the route went dormant for eight years.


After the telephone business was sold in the early 1990s, Dave decided to restart the route. As Bill explained, the decision began with a stop he and his father made at Lieberman Music to pick up a turntable for an old Rowe MM-3 jukebox left over from the old days. Father and son found the industry fully into the CD age, so much so that the distributorship didn’t even have a turntable in stock. Bill, who helped his dad as a kid and was always drawn to the business, asked his dad about restarting the route. Dad was game and Mendota Valley Amusement was reborn.   


Outside of his life in coin-op, Dave was an avid fisherman, hunter, hobbyist and entrepreneur. He enjoyed his evening Manhattan and a good game of cribbage. 


He was preceded in death by Margaret, his loving wife of 50 years. Dave is survived by his children, Patrick (Jennifer), Bill (Robyn), Mary “Molly,” Laurie (Tony) Kocanda; grandchildren Caitriona, Cadence, Teige, Margaret, Sean and Wesley; and many nieces, nephews and, of course, friends.


Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m., Thursday, April 13, at the Church of St. Peter (1405 Sibley Memorial Hwy, Mendota). Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. the day before (April 12) at Roberts Funeral Home (8108 Barbara Ave., Inver Grove Heights) and one hour before the Mass at church. For those wishing to remember Dave, the family suggests donations to the St. Thomas Academy/Lethert Family Scholarship Fund. Rest in peace.


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