After Premature Announcement Earlier This Week, 'Leave It to Beaver' Star Dies at Age 77
Actor Tony Dow, who played the character of Wally Cleaver on the classic TV family show “Leave It to Beaver,” has died at the age of 77 after a battle with liver cancer.
The announcement Wednesday followed one Tuesday that Dow was dead. His wife, Lauren Shulkind, mistakenly had told Dow’s management team that the actor had died after she was “very distraught” over his condition, according to the New York Post.
On Tuesday night, Dow’s son, Christopher, said his father was in “his last hours.”
On Wednesday, a post on Tony Dow’s Facebook page said the end had come.
“We have received confirmation from Christopher, Tony’s son, that Tony passed away earlier this morning, with his loving family at his side to see him through this journey,” the social media post said. “We know that the world is collectively saddened by the loss of this incredible man. He gave so much to us all and was loved by so many. One fan said it best—’It is rare when there is a person who is so universally loved like Tony.’”
Tony Dow, the actor and director best known for playing the stalwart older brother Wally Cleaver to Jerry Mathers’ Beaver in the iconic series “Leave It to Beaver,” died Wednesday after it was incorrectly announced Tuesday that he had died. He was 77.https://t.co/nsOUNgiyUC
— Variety (@Variety) July 27, 2022
“Christopher has stated: Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place. He was the best Dad anyone could ask for. He was my coach, my mentor, my voice of reason, my best friend, my best man in my wedding, and my hero. My wife said something powerful and shows the kind of man he was. She said: ‘Tony was such a kind man. He had such a huge heart and I’ve never heard Tony say a bad or negative thing about anyone,’ ” the Facebook post said.
Dow died due to complications from liver cancer, said his manager, Frank Bilotta, according to The Washington Post. Dow passed away at his home in Topanga, California.
Dow played Wally Cleaver, the older brother of Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, who was played by Jerry Mathers, during the show’s six seasons from 1957 to 1963.
Dow was 12 when the show began; Mathers was 8. The first season aired on CBS, and the remaining five seasons ran on ABC.
Dow and Mathers returned to play their roles again in “The New Leave It to Beaver” from 1986-89.
“When I see a show about drugs, it can be an interesting story and I can get involved, but it doesn’t have the same kind of identification as when Beaver took his father’s electric drill and made a hole in the garage door,” Dow said in a 1988 interview with the Houston Chronicle, according to The Washington Post. “Those kind of stories are what make up real life, and growing up from child to adulthood. People say the show is milk and cookies, but I disagree. I think it’s the essence of growing up.”
Super Sky Point to Tony Dow, who will always be the legendary Wally Cleaver in our hearts. In his memory, here’s my favorite scene from the entire run of Leave It to Beaver. Funny because it’s absolutely true. #RIP pic.twitter.com/zA1an56Z2h
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) July 26, 2022
The Washington Post cited a story published in the Kansas City Star in 2003 as summing up Dow’s attitude toward fans and fame.
“I could never understand the reaction that Jerry or I would get from people,” Dow said then. “Then I was on a plane once and I walked by this guy, and he looked really familiar to me. I asked a stewardess, ‘Who’s that guy?’ And she said, ‘Oh, that’s [Harlem Globetrotter] Meadowlark Lemon.’ And the biggest smile came across my face.”
“All of a sudden I realized what it is,” Dow said. “I mean, I don’t know what it is — but it happened to me. I just got that warm feeling and smiled and thought, ‘You know, that’s really cool.’”
Facebook post from Jerry Mathers on the passing of Tony Dow. pic.twitter.com/NNTzuz4bdv
— J.D. Kunes (@JDKunes) July 26, 2022
Dow was remembered Wednesday by Mathers.
“Tony was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well,” Mathers, 74, said on Facebook. “He leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled. Tony was always the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man, and it was my honor and privilege to be able to share memories together with him for 65 years.”
Dow also guest-starred on TV shows “My Three Sons,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Lassie” and in the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
He also spent time behind the camera, directing episodes of TV shows such as “Coach,” “Harry and the Hendersons” and “Babylon 5.”
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