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,” was in hospice care Tuesday, despite an earlier announcement that he had died.
Dow’s friends and managers Frank Bilotta and Renee James wrote on Dow’s Facebook page Tuesday morning that the actor had died at age 77. The news quickly went worldwide, with tributes pouring in for the co-star of one of television’s most memorable shows.
But a short time later, Dow’s wife, Lauren, told CBS News and other media outlets that her husband was still alive, but in hospice care. She told ABC7 she has been on an emotional roller-coaster, and believed that Dow had died based on a variety of circumstances Tuesday morning, only to realize later he was still alive, after his death was already being reported globally.
The Facebook post announcing Dow’s death was subsequently deleted from the actor’s social media page.
Dow has 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.
Following the original announcement of Dow’s death, Mathers posted a tribute online.
“He was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well,” Mathers wrote on Facebook. “He was always the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man, that it was my honor and privilege to be able to share memories together with for 65 years. Tony was so grateful for all of the love and support from our fans across the world.”
Former child star Bill Mumy also posted a tribute online, calling Dow “one of the very best humans I’ve ever known.”
“A true artist, a kind soul, a patient, down to earth, humble man and a good close friend,” Mumy wrote.
Actor Willie Aames called Dow “a humanitarian, artist, actor, director and television icon. Tony was happiest in his Topanga Canyon shop where he sculpted and worked with passion. He and I shared woodworking as a passion and art.”
“Leave it to Beaver” is one of the most memorable TV series from the early days of television. Running on CBS in 1957-58 and ABC from 1958-63, the black-and-white program portrayed the American ideal of family life. The Cleavers were led by parents portrayed by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, with Mathers playing the always-mischievous Beaver and Dow being his more straight-laced older brother, Wally.
The show was revived with a 1983 TV movie called “Still the Beaver,” followed by a revival series titled “The New Leave it to Beaver.”
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.