American Actor Jerry Mathers took a break from the spotlight to focus more on his kids and health, but ultimately his decision led to the breakdown of his second marriage.
Jerry Mathers is an actor famously known for his portrayal of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver in the popular TV series "Leave It to Beaver."
But unknown to many, the actor started his career as a child model for a department store advert when he was just two years old. He also appeared in a commercial for PET Milk.
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow on the TV show ‘Leave It to Beaver’ [Left] | Actor Jerry Mathers, wife Rhonda and children attend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's "Coming Out of Their Shells" Rock & Roll Tour on November 21, 1990. [Right] | Photo: Getty Images
His role as Beaver was full of drama, and his character always got in trouble, but his journey to bagging the role on the series was just as dramatic. His childhood candidness impressed the production team and offered him a life-changing role.
However, years after the actor's success in the series, people still unsurprisingly judge him by the character. Let's take a glimpse into his personal life, journey to fatherhood, and marriage.
Actor Jerry Mathers attends "Small Mouth Sounds" opening night at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on January 12, 2018. | Photo: Getty Images
HIS ROAD TO EARLY FAME
Mathers got his big break very early in life, and he worked as a model when he was just two years old. He also starred as the young boy who discovered a body in the opening scene of "The Trouble With Harry" by Alfred Hitchcock.
From there, the star switched to acting, and he appeared in two movies with Bob Hope before his new agent Glenn Shaw convinced his mom to allow him to audition for the role of The Beaver in the TV series "Leave It to Beaver."
Many kids showed up to be interviewed for the position. After about eight weeks of nitpicking and interviewing kids for the role, Mathers was one of the final ten kids called once again to be interviewed by the producers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher.
The young actor had grown tired of the tedious interviewing process and had just joined a cub scout with his first meeting scheduled to hold the same day of the interview.
The producers noticed he was a bit jittery, and Mathers told them he would rather be at his cub scout meeting. So they told him to go but called his mother later that day to inform her Mathers got the role of The Beaver.
According to the producers, they had cast him because they would rather have a kid that wanted to go to his cub scout meeting than stay when he did not want to.
The series "Leave It to Beaver" premiered on October 4, 1957, and it aired for six seasons, becoming one of the most popular series at the time.
It was about an idyllic middle-class Cleaver family whose youngest son Beaver, portrayed by Mathers, was always getting into trouble. He also idolized his big brother, Wally, played by Tony Dow.
MATHER'S PERSONAL LIFE
After "Leave It To Beaver" ended in 1963, Mathers attended a high school where he played with the junior varsity football team. The actor also set up and played in a rock band called "Beaver and the Trappers."
Afterward, the young actor joined the U.S. Air Force reserve with plans of being a Marine during the Vietnam war. Five years later, he finished his military service and enrolled at Berkeley University, where he graduated with a degree in Philosophy.
Mathers met Diana Park while at Berkeley and married her in 1974. The Actor and Park, a teacher, lived in a three-bedroom suburban ranch house.
During this period, he also worked in real estate and banking. In addition, the actor did a bit of TV and appeared in bit-part roles in dinner theatres.
He divorced Diana after six years in 1980 and afterward went on an 18-month comedy tour called "Boeing-Boeing" with his former co-star on "Leave It To Beaver" Tony Dow.
Mathers met Teresa Modnick for the first time at a restaurant of his choosing for a blind date.
Actor Jerry Mathers and his wife Rhonda Mathers attend an event in 1986 in Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Getty Images
While on tour, the actor met 26-year-old Rhonda Gehring, a public-relations worker, and was instantly smitten with her. He declared:
"This girl may have had a mind for business, but her body was designed for sin."
The pair got hitched and had three children, Noah, Mercedes, and Gretchen. Afterward, Mathers started working as a disc jockey before appearing in the 1983 CBS movie of the week, "Still the Beaver."
He also signed on for the Disney Channel series "The New Leave It to Beaver" but struggled with the schedule and had difficulty keeping his weight down. So he took a break after the series ended in 1989. Mathers revealed:
"Rhonda would meet me at the door in some Frederick's of Hollywood outfit, and all I would fantasize about was food. Maybe if Rhonda had dressed up as a truffle or a chocolate souffle, I would have been interested."
WEIGHT AND MARITAL PROBLEMS
During the 1980s, Mathers started a catering service and, as a result, gained a lot of weight because he was eating all the time.
He was urged to get a physical examination by his friend, a doctor concerned about his weight gain. The actor initially refused but later agreed after being asked to take the physical examination as a Christmas present.
Actor Jerry Mathers, wife Rhonda and children attend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's "Coming Out of Their Shells" Rock & Roll Tour on November 21, 1990. | Photo: Getty Images
His results were released after a few days, and Mathers was informed his blood sugar was above 700. He also had type 2 diabetes. The father of three said:
"My doctor asked me if I'd like to see my kids graduate from high school. She said, 'You'll be dead in a few years unless you do something about it right now.'"
After being told he had 3 to 5 years to live, Mathers lost about 72 pounds going from 250 pounds to about 178. He lost the final 30 pounds with the help of the Jenny Craig weight loss program.
Jerry Mathers and wife Rhonda during "Hollywoodland" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California on September 7, 2006. | Photo: Getty Images
Everyone was happy with the way things were going. The actor and his wife even renewed their vows at a church ceremony, but his marriage was already deteriorating because of his long break away from the spotlight. He disclosed:
"Rhonda had married me at the start of The New Leave It to Beaver. Living with a social and professional recluse was not in her original plan. Rhonda wanted out."
He explained that people think being married to a celebrity is nice, but they eventually get fed up with the drama that comes with it. His wife Ghering had found someone else, and she left him.
In an interview with the National Enquirer soon after, Ghering explained that even though her ex-husband was a great guy and a good husband and father, he could not compare to Ward Cleaver.
The actor was shocked by these comments and could not believe his ex-wife had said that about him. Mathers declared:
Wow! This was so weird to me. How can I compete with a fictional character? My wife was seeking the type of love demonstrated by my fictional father to my fictional mother."
THIRD MARRIAGE AND FATHERHOOD
Mathers met Teresa Modnick for the first time at a restaurant of his choosing on a blind date that the actor's sister initially set up.
Modnick knew who he was; she watched "Let's Leave It to Beaver" when she was a child, and the pair connected immediately. After five years of dating, they got married at the Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach.
Present at the ceremony were over 150 guests, including Mathers's former co-stars like Eddie Eskell, Wally Cleaver, and Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford.
Actress and Singer Jennifer Leigh Warren and Cindy Williams of "Laverne & Shirley" also attended the ceremony.
Apart from being happily married, Mathers is also a proud grandfather. The actor once gushed over his first grandchild by sharing her picture on Facebook. He also recently celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary with Modnick.