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 Tuesday at age 77.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning,” Dow’s friends and managers Frank Bilotta and Renee James wrote on Dow’s Facebook page.
“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.
“From the warm reminiscences of Wally Cleaver to those of us fortunate enough to know him personally — thank you Tony. And thank you for the reflections of a simpler time, the laughter, the friendship and for the feeling that you were a big brother to us all. We will miss you.”
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.
Following Dow’s death, Mathers mourned the passing of his “lifelong friend.”
“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. My wife Teresa and I send our deepest condolences to his wife Lauren, his family and to all of those who knew and loved him. The world may have lost a star today, but the heavens gained another.”
“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.
Dow is survived by his wife, Lauren, and two children.