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

by Joe Rutland

Tony Dow, who played the lovable-but-brotherly Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, has died at 77 years old. It was reported he died yesterday morning, but those reports were in error. The classic TV star had been battling cancer. TMZ initially shared a report from Dow’s management team that the actor had died. It was later reported that he was breathing on his own in hospice care.

Dow was part of a family ideal that made up TV in the 1950s and 1960s. Besides him, Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, and Hugh Beaumont starred there. He would play Wally throughout the show’s six-season run across ABC and CBS. For millions of TV viewers, they’ve grown up seeing Leave It to Beaver run in syndication.

Tony Dow Would Become Director, Producer

After the show ended, Dow would eventually find his way into becoming a director and producer. Some of the TV shows he worked on included Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But he would come back and play Wally in a TV movie titled Still the Beaver and in one more series, The New Leave It to Beaver. The actor would go through some tough times in life, finding himself battling depression over the years.

Besides show business, though, Dow would find comfort in working as a sculptor and carpenter. In fact, reportedly, Billingsley, who played mother June Cleaver, had one of Dow’s pieces at her house. Beaumont, who played father Ward Cleaver, also doubled during his time on the sitcom as a Methodist minister. Dow leaves behind his second wife, Lauren, and his son, Christopher.

Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert Bates on the show, talked about working alongside Tony Dow in an interview. “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. He remains a really interesting guy. He became a sculptor.”

One time, Dow talked about having a rebellious nature after the show had ended. “It’s nice to be remembered any way you can, so I have accomplished that,” Dow said in an interview. “I’m much more appreciative of the show. I was not unappreciative, but I was always a little rebellious.” Generations will continue to grow up watching Wally and Beaver. The show will never leave the land of TV reruns. And we all get to see Tony Dow again and again.