Tony Dow, an actor and director best known for his role as older brother Wally Cleaver in “Leave It to Beaver,” died Tuesday, according to his representatives. He was 77 years old.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning,” Frank Bilotta and Renee James, Dow managers, Announced in a sentence. “Tony was a beautiful soul: kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was really a pleasure to be around him. His soft voice and his unassuming manner were immediately comforting and you couldn’t help but love him.
The cause of death was not shared, but Dow revealed in May that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
Dow shot to stardom at age 12, when he was cast in the soon-to-be-hit sitcom “Leave It to Beaver.” On paper, Dow helped create the archetype of a suburban nuclear family and became a household name to millions of viewers. The program ran from 1957 to 1963.
in a January interview with CBS Sunday MorningDow recalled learning over a burger and malt that she was offered the part after auditioning on a whim.
“That’s where my life went,” he said.
Wally Cleaver, the teenage son of straight arrow, star athlete and Boy Scout, became inextricably linked with Dow, who said he struggled to stand on his own two feet.
“It’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing has happened to you,” he told CBS.
Dow, who said he experienced undiagnosed depression in his 20s and 40s, spoke for decades about his mental health struggles, long before it was common for celebrities to disclose such information publicly. In 1993, he was an honorary speaker at a convention of the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association.
“I realize there’s a sense of irony about this,” he said. saying the Baltimore Sun of his depression in 1993. “You know, the fact that I was on a TV show that embodied the so-called ideal world of the ’50s, and here I am suffering from depression. But I am only one among millions.”
Dow told CBS that once he accepted his diagnosis and began treatment, he found hope. She channeled that hope into art, too, sculpting ornate pieces in her home studio.
“I think people should take the leap of faith to feel better,” he said.
Dow continued to work in Hollywood, appearing on television series and even reprising his role in “The New Leave It to Beaver” in the 1980s. He also directed episodes of such series as “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Coach,” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.
Jerry Mathers, who starred alongside Dow as Beaver on his hit sitcom, saying fans earlier this month that he had been in contact with Dow, whose managers said he had been “in and out of the hospital with various complications and treatments”.
Bilotta and James, Dow’s management team, thanked their client for his work, “for the reflections of a simpler time, the laughter, the friendship and for feeling like a big brother to all of us.”