Tony Dow sadly passed away on July 27, 2022, leaving Jerry Mathers as one of the few remaining "Leave It to Beaver" cast members. Mathers shared a touching tribute to his on-screen brother.
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow were two of the most successful child actors in the late 1950s and early 1960s for their portrayal of Beaver and Wally in "Leave It to Beaver," the TV series that followed Beaver's adventures.
The show was so successful that it ran for six seasons and had a reunion telemovie and a sequel. Sadly, only a few of the original cast members are still alive, including Jerry Mathers and Rusty Stevens.
JERRY MATHERS AS THEODORE BEAVER CLEAVER
Born Gerald Patrick Mathers in Sioux City, Iowa, on June 2, 1948, Jerry Mathers' career in the entertainment industry began when he was two and appeared in a Pet Condensed Milk commercial on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
In 1953, Mathers worked in "I Love Lucy." Although he didn't get credit for his brief appearance, he shared the screen with Lucille Ball in the sitcom.
However, joining the "Leave It to Beaver" cast when he was eight was his most significant accomplishment as a child actor. He auditioned multiple times for the role, but what got him the part was showing up in his Cub Scouts uniform and telling everyone he was anxious to go to his den meeting.
Mathers booked the leading role and kept it for six seasons (234 episodes from 1957 to 1963), turning him into America's most famous child actor. He reprised his role in the 1982 TV film "Still the Beaver."
It was so successful that it led to a new series, "The New Leave It to Beaver." Besides being the main star throughout its 108 episodes, Mathers directed plenty of them.
In 2017, Mathers celebrated the show's 60th anniversary by writing some of his memories. He pointed out that the biggest gift the sitcom gave him was multiple friends, fans, and acquaintances.
After leaving the "Leave It to Beaver" cast and completing his stints in the sequel, Mathers appeared in "Married… With Children," "Diagnosis: Murder," "The War at Home," and multiple productions on Broadway and other theatres.
Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the mid-1990s. He changed his lifestyle, lost 55 pounds, and started raising awareness about the condition. He is 74, and his latest TV appearance was in 2008's "Mother Goose Parade."
Most "Leave It to Beaver" cast members, including Hugh Beaumont, have died.
RUSTY STEVENS AS LARRY MONDELO
Rusty Stevens is the other "Leave It to Beaver" cast member alive. He was born on November 25, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, and his incursion into the arts was extraordinary.
To help his family make ends meet, Stevens worked selling newspapers on a street corner. One day, talent scout Lola Moore saw him and liked his style. Although Stevens had never acted before – not even in school plays – he landed a part in "Leave It to Beaver."
Portraying Beaver's best friend Larry Mondelo might have been his acting debut, but he did a great job and took parts in other projects, including "77 Sunset Strip" and "Shirley Temple's Storybook." Unfortunately, he left the "Leave It to Beaver" cast after four seasons.
Promotional photo of Robert "Rusty" Stevens for "Leave It to Beaver" circa 1957 | Source: Getty Images
Stevens' mother claimed he was fired, but sources report that the producers probably had issues with her "overbearing" manners. Stevens and his family moved from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania shortly after.
He appeared in a few TV series before turning his back on Hollywood for good following his brief appearance in 1963's "The Rifleman." He served in the Army in West Germany in 1969 and married Theresa Marinelli, the mother of his only child.
In the early 1980s, Jerry Mathers found him after years of searching. Mathers convinced him to work with him again, and Stevens reprised his role as Larry in 1983's "Still the Beaver" and three episodes of "The New Leave It to Beaver."
"LEAVE IT TO BEAVER" ACTORS WHO HAVE SADLY PASSED AWAY
Most "Leave It to Beaver" cast members, including Hugh Beaumont, have died. He played patriarch Ward Cleaver, but he already had a successful career in showbiz with long runs in "Racket Squad" and the "Loretta Young Show."
Beaumont, whom Mathers described as his friend and mentor, kept acting until 1971, one year after suffering a stroke. He died of an apparent heart attack in Munich, Germany, on May 14, 1982. He was 73.
[Mathers described Dow] as the kindest, most loving, humble man and a brother on TV and in real life.
The Cleaver matriarch was June, played by Barbara Billingsley. She began her run in the entertainment industry as a stage actress and fashion model until MGM signed her. In "Leave It to Beaver," she wore pearls to cover a hollow in her neck and high heels to look taller than the boys.
After the show's cancelation in 1963, Billingsley appeared in "Mork & Mindy," "Roseanne," and a few other TV series. She reprised her role in the "Leave It to Beaver" follow-up series and films. After marrying three times and having two sons, Billingsley died on October 16, 2010, aged 94.
On May 18, 2020, Ken Osmond, better known as troublemaker Eddie Haskell, passed away for undisclosed reasons. Although he had a crucial role in the TV show, he was supposed only to have a guest appearance. He impressed everyone and worked in all six seasons, though.
When "Leave It to Beaver" ended, he stayed involved in showbiz and worked in "Petticoat Junction," "With Six You Get Eggroll," and a few other projects, but he soon realized he was typecast as Eddie. Osmond joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1970 and served 18 years.
TONY DOW PASSED AWAY AT 77
On July 27, 2022, "Leave It to Beaver" fans were shocked to learn about Tony Dow's reported death. He portrayed Wally Cleaver, his second acting credit in showbiz.
Actor Paul Sullivan portrayed Wally in the pilot, but he grew so tall so fast that the show had to replace him with Dow. After leaving the show, Dow had sporadic acting gigs, served in the National Guard, and reprised his role in "The New Leave It to Beaver."
WHAT HAPPENED TO TONY DOW?
Dow survived two bouts of cancer, but his family announced it returned in mid-2022. On July 26, his official Facebook account reported he had passed away, but his son later revealed it was a mistake as his dad was still alive but in hospice care.
One day later, Dow died. He was 77. Jerry Mathers paid tribute to his fellow "Leave It to Beaver" castmate, describing him as the kindest, most loving, humble man and a brother on TV and in real life. Rest in peace, legend.
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