UPDATE 4:40 PM ET: Leave it to Beaver star 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.
Earlier this year, CBS News sat down with Dow to hear his story of how childhood fame created the feelings of negativity he spent his adult life fighting. The outlet reshared the piece in memory of his passing.
Actor @TonyDowOfficial played Wally Cleaver, the polite, trustworthy “All-American” big brother on the classic sitcom. But for years Tony Dow was dogged by feelings of depression. https://t.co/qyrMh45UVl Tony Dow on life beyond “Leave It to Beaver” pic.twitter.com/qrzcOIedhE— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) January 17, 2022
“I think that, you know, my anger stemmed from lack of control with the Beaver show,” Dow said. “Also the fact that I was known for something I did when I was 12, you know, a kid actually. And I’m actually a person now that’s in his 20s and does things, but never recognized for anything I do. “
Dow said at the time he didn’t know his life would become defined by his role as Wally. But unfortunately for him, it did. And the weight of the role stuck with his entire life.
Tony Dow’s Struggle for Mental Health
“I thought, ‘this isn’t fair,’ you know?” Dow said. “I mean, I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff. You know, it’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing’s happening for you.”
His sadness turned to anger, which set up Dow for a struggle with mental health that marked the rest of his life.
“Anger, if it’s untreated, anger turns to depression,” Dow said. “That’s what [depression] is. Anger turned inward. And I didn’t know what it was… But depression isn’t something you can say ‘Cheer up!’ about. You know, it’s a very powerful thing. And it’s had a lot of effect on my life.”
Dow said most people will never understand the struggle unless they go through it for themselves. He compared it to a broken arm; an ailment that needs to be treated by a doctor. But he said depression is far more painful. He credits his art combined with medication and therapy for getting him through his struggles. Before his death, he said he finally “felt good” and he could look back on his famous role for the opportunity it was.
“And I’ve got it under control pretty much,” Dow said. “You know, I think people should take the leap of faith that they can feel better… I felt that way probably from the time I was 20, maybe until I was 40. And then at 40, I realized how great the show was, how appreciative I should be for being in that show.”