Happy Birthday Jerry Mathers: Celebrating the Life of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Icon

by Evan Reier

73 years ago today in Sioux City, Iowa, Jerry Mathers was born. Within a decade, he and Leave it to Beaver would be on TV sets across the USA.

It’s only right to celebrate the birthday of one of TV’s most beloved child stars. Jerry Mathers captivated audiences on Leave it to Beaver as families were eager to see the latest hijinks and lessons of the Cleaver family.

Similar to The Brady Bunch, the show never had monstrous ratings during its original run from 1957 to 1963. However, it was Mathers and the show’s lasting impact in syndication that made it beloved by many generations.

But while the fame of the Beaver never quite died, Mathers has lived a full and diverse life.

Jerry Mathers Enters TV Stardom on Leave it to Beaver

Even for the newest generations, the name Leave it to Beaver is one they’ve seen or heard in pop culture. In the nearly-60 years since the show’s end, it still influences pop culture.

But before Mathers was Theodore Cleaver, he was already a face on the screen. From the age of 2, the actor had been working in entertainment. He famously starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, and worked on other films and commercials.

But it goes without saying that Leave it to Beaver changed everything for Mathers. Despite not wanting to be there, the young actor earned the role, and ended up being in all 234 episodes of the original show.

As mentioned above, despite a lengthy run, the show never went into the top 20 shows in the Nielsen ratings. The legacy of the program was deepened with reruns instead, as channels consistently broadcasted Leave it to Beaver into the 1980s.

It was in the 1980s that The New Leave it to Beaver came to life after the success of a reunion movie. It ran for four seasons in the mid-to-late 1980s, and further created a new generation of Beaver fans.

Mathers’ Life Outside of TV

In the time between the two shows, Mathers explored different paths. During his high school days, Mathers released music and even formed a band.

However, it never reached major success. As a young adult Mathers grew up, he became interested in joining the military, eventually signing on with the Air Force while still in high school. Mathers remained in the branch’s reserves throughout the Vietnam War, despite rumors saying he was killed overseas.

Afterward, he returned to California, but for school rather than entertainment. Mathers got his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at University of California-Berkeley before going into accounting and real estate.

But the siren call of entertainment was too strong, and he got back to acting and entertaining by 1980. Within three years, the Leave it to Beaver reunion movie, Still the Beaver, came out and injected new life into the beloved franchise.

These days, Mathers appears to be keeping things quiet. Married to his third wife Teresa Modnick and with three children from his second marriage, Mathers has family and a TV legacy surrounding him.