When Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, passed away in 2022 at the age of 77, viewers all across the world said goodbye to one of television’s finest older brothers.
Wally, who Jerry Mathers depicted as “the Beaver,” was the responsible elder sibling who was constantly imparting knowledge to his younger sibling.
Their bond served as the foundation of the pleasant 1950s sitcom, and Dow and Mathers also grew closer than brothers.
After Dow died away, Mathers, who is now 74, paid tribute to his late friend and co-star.
“Tony was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well,” Mathers wrote in a Facebook post. “He leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled.”
“Tony was always the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man, and it was my honor and privilege to be able to share memories together with him for 65 years. Tony was so grateful for all of the kindness and support from our fans around the world and he so much appreciated all the love.”
Between 1957 until 1963, Beaver ran, and both of its stars developed throughout that period. Although it wasn’t a big ratings success at the time, it has since earned a reputation as a classic TV show thanks to its pure but funny depiction of the ideal 1950s suburban America.
Dow continued performing after the series ended, but Mathers took a hiatus to focus on high school. He joined the US Air Force Reserve, where he ultimately rose to the position of Sergeant.
Despite not participating in combat in Vietnam, there was a story that Mathers had perished there in the late 1960s. This was untrue, though. When appearing on Saturday Night Live, Mathers and Dow made fun of their Beaver personalities in order to ridicule the idea.
Even though Dow and Mathers couldn’t avoid the roles that made them famous, they were content to use the success of Leave It to Beaver to further their own careers.
In the 1983 television movie Still the Beaver, which led to the four-season revival series The New Leave It to Beaver, they reprised their roles. Also returning for the revival were previous Beaver performers Ken Osmond, Frank Bank, and Barbara Billingsley.
Later, Mathers intermittently returned to acting, appearing in minor roles in several TV series. Mathers made his Broadway debut in the production of Hairspray in 2007.
At conventions and fan events dedicated to Leave It to Beaver, Dow and Mathers frequently shared the stage.
According to Tony Dow, he received a cancer diagnosis in May. The management company for the actor published a notification on his Facebook page on July 26 informing fans of his passing.
Later, his family stated that although he was still alive, he was receiving hospice care and was close to passing away. A day later, Dow’s family made an official announcement about his dying at age 77.
“We know that the world is collectively saddened by the loss of this incredible man,” their statement reads. “He gave so much to us all and was loved by so many. One fan said it best—’It is rare when there is a person who is so universally loved like Tony.’”
“Words cannot express how much we will all feel his absence, but will cherish the memories he left to each and every one of us.”
Of course, Mathers is one of those people who will always have warm memories of his on-screen sibling. “The world may have lost a star today, but the heavens gained another,” he posted on Facebook.
With Dow’s passing, Mathers is the only surviving actor from the original Leave It to Beaver cast; Eddie Haskell’s actor, Ken Osmond, passed away in 2020. Hugh Beaumont died in 1982 at age 72, while Barbara Billingsley passed away in 2010 at age 94.
Given how much we like Leave It to Beaver, it’s fantastic to realize that the two on-screen brothers also get along so well off-screen.
Tony Dow, may you rest in peace. You were magnificent. Please share your favorite Leave It to Beaver memories in the comments section of this page.