Tony Dow, ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star, Dead at 77

by Joe Rutland
Tony Dow, 'Leave It to Beaver' Star, Dead at 77

UPDATE: Tony Dow is reportedly still alive, per TMZ. The post from Dow’s Facebook page breaking the news this morning has now been removed. Dow’s manager reported that the actor’s wife, Lauren, “believed her husband was dead.” TMZ adds that Dow remains in hospice care.

Tony Dow, who would become known to millions of classic TV fans as Wally Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver, is dead at 77 years old. Dow had been battling cancer. It is not known if he died from it. After his run in the series ended, Dow would go on to become a prolific director and producer of other TV shows. Dow played opposite Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, and Hugh Beaumont on Leave It to Beaver.

TMZ shared a statement from Dow’s team on Tuesday morning. “Tony was a beautiful soul – kind, compassionate, funny, and humble,” it states. “It was truly a joy to just be around him. His gentle voice and unpretentious manner was immediately comforting and you could not help but love him. The world has lost an amazing human being, but we are all richer for the memories that he has left us.

“From the warm reminiscences of Wally Cleaver to those of us fortunate enough to know him personally – thank you Tony,” the statement continues. “And thank you for the reflections of a simpler time, the laughter, the friendship, and for the feeling that you were a big brother to us all. We will miss you.”

Tony Dow Was Born In Hollywood

Tony Dow was born in Hollywood, maybe setting up a little foreshadowing of his career path. One cannot be sure of that yet it does make for an interesting possibility. Leave It to Beaver ran on ABC and CBS between 1957 and 1963. It was a show which depicted what could be termed as a “perfect nuclear family” with Beaver getting into trouble while Wally had his own issues. Ward and June, played by Beaumont and Billingsley, were along to dish out punishment in their own style.

Dow would appear in other shows like My Three Sons and Never Too Late. He would serve in The National Guard from 1965-68. Later on, he returned to play Wally in The New Leave It to Beaver between 1983-89. His career, as we said, would go into some behind-the-scenes areas. Acting, though, remained part of his life in the 2000s thanks to Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.

In an interview, actor Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert Bates on Leave It to Beaver, recalled what it was like to work with Dow. “Tony couldn’t have been nicer,” Talbot said. “He was sort of the icon of the ideal elder brother. He was low-key, very straightforward. Sometimes, so we could blow off steam and just have fun during lunch breaks, they had a little basketball court. I remember playing pickup basketball games with him. He could always out-shoot us. We’re not close, but I’ve been in contact with Tony Dow over the years.”