Actor, director and artist Tony Dow, forever remembered for his role as Wally Cleaver–older brother to Jerry Mathers’ Beaver–in the iconic family sitcom “Leave it to Beaver,” died this week at age 77.
Dow passed on Wednesday, one day after his management team mistakenly announced his death, only to later retract the news and announce he was still in hospice care and was in his “final hours.”
In an updated message posted on Dow’s Facebook page Wednesday, the actor’s managers, Frank Bilotta and Renee James, announced that Dow “passed away earlier this morning, with his loving family at his side to see him through this journey.
“Tony was a beautiful soul -–- kind, compassionate, funny and humble. 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.”
Dow’s son, Christopher, said in a statement: “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 at my wedding, and my hero.”
Dow had been battling a re-occurrence with cancer, which he had beaten back twice before. His managers wrote last week that Dow had been “in and out of the hospital with various complications and treatments.”
Mathers took to Facebook last week to ask for prayers for his TV brother and longtime friend.
“He appreciates your concern and good wishes, and it has certainly been a great help in lifting his spirits,” Mathers wrote.
“Leave it to Beaver” is one of the most memorable TV series from the late 1950s and early 1960s, portraying the American ideal of family life. The Cleavers were led by mom-and-dad portrayed by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, with Mathers playing the always-mischievous Beaver and Dow being his more straight-laced older brother, Wally.
When the show’s run ended, Dow moved more into writing and directing, but continued to make appearances on shows including “The Love Boat,” “Charles in Charge” and “Lassie.” As a director, he helmed episodes of shows including “Coach,” “Babylon 5,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Swamp Thing.”
He also became an accomplished artist and sculptor. One of his bronze sculptures was once displayed at the Louvre in Paris.
Dow is survived by his wife, Lauren, and two children.