July 27, 2022: Tony Dow, ‘Leave it to Beaver’s’ Wally Cleaver, Dies

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Tony Dow (r.) with his TV brother, Jerry Mathers, in Leave it to Beaver

Tony Dow, best known for his portrayal of the older brother on the TV sitcom Leave it to Beaver, died on July 27, 2022. News of his confirmed passing was posted on his Facebook page at 3:25 p.m. ET that day, noting “We have received confirmation from Christopher, Tony’s son, that Tony passed away earlier this moning, with his loving family at his side to see him through his journey.” (See the full announcement below.) Most news gathering organizations, including Best Classic Bands, shared the premature news of his death the day before based on a post by his management on his Facebook page at approximately 11:30 a.m. ET (on July 26).

In the official death announcement on July 27, Christopher Dow said, “Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place. He was the best Dad anyone could ask for.”

The premature announcement by his management on July 26 was based on a misunderstanding, and was removed from Dow’s Facebook page. As TV reporter George Pennacchio reported on July 26, at 3:40 p.m. ET, “Tony Dow is still alive. I had a conversation with his wife, Lauren. She is understandably distraught and grief-stricken about what’s been going on with Tony’s health battle these past months. He’s been in hospice care at their home, and based on some health issues overnight, Lauren inferred that Tony had passed away to some people close to her and the word quickly spread. Lauren admits she’s been ‘a little fuzzy’ these days–understandable.

“She told me she now feels ‘foolish’ about what has transpired since his death has been reported around the world. She also told me, through her pain, ‘it is of my own doing.’ I told her we know it’s been a very stressful time and people understand overwhelming grief. Lauren says she ‘loves and adores’ her husband of 42 years with all of her heart.

“While she did say he passed, she now understands the miscommunication and is sorry for causing a commotion in this challenging time.”

Christopher Dow was with him all day. “My wife and I are by his side,” he wrote at around 6 p.m. ET on July 26, “along with many friends that have visited. He has a fighting heart.”

The complete statement of Dow’s passing on July 27, by his management: Dear Family, Friends, & Fans

We have received confirmation from Christopher, Tony’s son, that Tony passed away earlier this morning, with his loving family at his side to see him through this journey.

We know that the world is collectively saddened by the loss of this incredible man. 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.”

Our heart goes out to Tony’s wife, Lauren, who will miss her soulmate of 42 years…To his son, Christopher, who will dearly miss his father, who was also his best friend…to his daughter-in-law, Melissa, who loved him like her own father…To his Granddaughter, Tyla, who will undoubtedly carry on her Grandfather’s kind soul, To his Brother Dion and Sister-in-Law, Judy, and to all of his extended family and friends. 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.

Christopher has stated: Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place. He was the best Dad anyone could ask for. He was my coach, my mentor, my voice of reason, my best friend, my best man in my wedding, and my hero. My wife said something powerful and shows the kind of man he was. She said: “Tony was such a kind man. He had such a huge heart and I’ve never heard Tony say a bad or negative thing about anyone.”

We respectfully ask that everyone give the family privacy in their time of mourning.

On July 29, two days after Dow’s passing, his wife, Lauren, thanked his fans. “I’ve just lost the love of my life, a man who I cherished and adored. Some would say our life together has been like a fairy tale. We were devoted to each other for 45 years, and together we created a beautiful life.

“Your messages of love and goodwill inspire me and give me strength. Thank you for being the best fans and friends Tony and I could ever ask for.”

On May 5, Lauren Dow had revealed that the actor had been diagnosed with cancer. Her post on Dow’s Facebook page noted that her husband “is approaching this reality so bravely, but it is truly heartbreaking.” The brief post did not identify the specific form of cancer. Dow turned 77 on April 13.

The premature statement by his management reads: “It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning.

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.
Frank Bilotta and Renee James–Tony’s Management Team & Dear Friends”

Dow played Wally Cleaver, the older brother to Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, portrayed by Jerry Mathers, on the family sitcom. Their TV parents, Ward and June Cleaver, were played by Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley.

Mathers shared his thoughts when he was informed that his TV brother had died: “It is with the utmost sadness I learned this morning of my co-star and lifelong friend Tony Dow’s passing. He was not only my brother on tv, but in many ways in life as well. Tony leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled.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.”

Dow was born April 13, 1945. Mathers was born June 2, 1948. Both Billingsley and Beaumont have passed. Ken Osmond, who played Wally’s wise-cracking pal, Eddie Haskell, died in 2020 at age 76.

On May 5, Lauren Dow’s brief post noted: “I have some very sad news to share with you. Unfortunately, Tony has once again been diagnosed with cancer. He is approaching this reality so bravely, but it is truly heartbreaking.

We want to thank you in advance for your caring thoughts.

Our Love,
Lauren & Tony”

The couple married in 1980.

At the time, Mathers posted on note to his Facebook page: “I was so saddened to hear about my lifelong friend, Tony Dow’s, cancer diagnosis. Tony has always been and will continue to be the pillar of strength that I have always known him to be. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”

Photo posted on Tony Dow’s Facebook page in 2021

Dow himself wrote an update on May 29. “I’m beginning Immunotherapy and it seems to be working,” he wrote. “I can now get up and walk without assistance and feel improvement every day. I have a big day coming up on the 31st with the doctor and am hoping for a good report.

“Enough of that stuff … I really wanted to touch base and thank all of you who have been thinking, praying and hoping for my good recovery. All the thoughts, cards and good wishes have had a tremendous effect on me and I’m appreciative for all the caring you’ve expressed. It’s amazing how the world could change with more love and respect. Let’s try our best to ‘make this world a better place’ for our friends, families, and even our adversaries.

With Love, Tony”

Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957-1963, initially on CBS. The network dropped the program after one season due to poor ratings. ABC then picked it up, though it was never a Top 30 series in any given season. Remarkably, there are 234 episodes; 39 were made each year. The series lives on in re-runs, airing on MeTV.

Related: Our 2022 interview with Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert on Beaver

After the series ended in 1963, Dow starred daily in Never Too Young for a year, then became a member of the General Hospital cast and made guest appearances on a variety of television shows. In the 80s, he began a career in TV directing and producing that continued for twenty years.

Related: Musicians and other celebrities we lost in 2022

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11 Comments so far

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  1. phil
    #1 phil 6 May, 2022, 17:17

    I watch ‘Leave It to Beaver’ every morning, sponsored by old-age ads ..

    Reply this comment
  2. Dino Saur
    #2 Dino Saur 8 May, 2022, 09:07

    I have always said to friends and colleagues:

    “Everything you need to know about how to conduct your life could be learned from the lessons embedded in the “Leave It To Beaver” episodes, regardless of where, who, how , or when you started out in life.”

    Bless you Tony, for being a big brother to the rest of us Beavers.

    Reply this comment
    • Gres
      Gres 27 July, 2022, 19:05

      Yes, that was one television show that was and still is a national treasure. Yes, pretty much everything you need to know in life can be learned watching “Leave to Beaver.” The stories were simply funny and most of all honest. The cast fit their parts perfectly because they played from the heart. Safe journey Tony, you will be missed. You were the big brother every Kid wished they had growing up.

      Reply this comment
  3. Rene Arellano
    #3 Rene Arellano 10 May, 2022, 03:22

    Leave it to Beaver, was and still would be a very Educational program. It shows us what life would be like, if we put our heart and soul, into what the show was a Labour. We wouldn’t have the problems we have now.

    Reply this comment
  4. Tiger
    #4 Tiger 27 July, 2022, 14:06

    I grew up watching leave it to beaver love the show I still watch it and get a good laugh what Memories This show brings back

    Reply this comment
  5. Anna Bailey
    #5 Anna Bailey 27 July, 2022, 16:03

    I am 74 and grew up watching Leave it to Beaver, every episode is lesson to learn.
    I watche’d the show every morning and continue when it starts all over again
    I am so sorry for the wife and family, may Tony rest in peace,
    Anna, Fan from Alabama

    Reply this comment
  6. JennyB
    #6 JennyB 27 July, 2022, 16:47

    I was so sorry to hear of Tony’s passing. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers to his family. I had such a crush on him when I was a little girl…I thought he was the cutest guy! It’s nice to hear of his being a kind person…I always imagined he would be. RIP, Tony, you were everyone’s big brother and we love you!

    Reply this comment
  7. Sam
    #7 Sam 27 July, 2022, 17:15

    No offense to the be Beaver, but the show should have been called leave it to Wally. The Beaver would mess up and Wally would save the Beaver.
    You could tell that he was as awesome off the show as on.

    Reply this comment
  8. Hope and blessings
    #8 Hope and blessings 28 July, 2022, 11:42

    I as a child also watched LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.
    I still watch the reruns everyday. It takes me back to a world that was so simple. Being born in the 50’s was a blessing. The reruns lets me escape from this crazy world today. Wally was the best big brother that I always wished for. Lol.. however I had 4 sisters instead. REST IN PEACE Tony (Wally) ! You will never be forgotten. We all love you and you will remain in our hearts.

    Reply this comment

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