Update: ‘Leave It To Beaver’ Star Tony Dow In Hospice Care Weeks After Devastating Diagnosis

Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver on "Leave It To Beaver," is in his "last hours" under hospice care at this time.


Editor’s Note: We learned that Tony Dow was in his “last hours” under hospice care at the time of this article’s publication; he had not died as reported earlier. 

TMZ reported that the statement about his death that was posted to his official Facebook page this morning was then removed. 

We spoke with Tony’s manager who says Tony’s wife, Lauren, who is very distraught, believed her husband was dead — and told his management.

Sadly, we now report that Tony Dow has died.

Tony Dow, who was best known for playing Wally on the iconic 1950s sitcom “Leave It To Beaver,” died on Tuesday just two months after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 77 years-old.

Dow Passes Away

Daily Mail reported that Dow’s death was confirmed by his management team this morning. Though no official cause of death was released, his passing comes after he announced his cancer diagnosis back in May. 

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning,” Frank Bilotta and Renee James, Dow’s managers, said in their statement. 

“Tony was a beautiful soul — kind, compassionate, funny and humble. It was truly a joy to just be around him,” they continued. “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.”

Bilotta and James ended their statement by saying thanking Dow 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,” they concluded, noting that they were not just his “management team,” but also his “dear friends.”

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Dow had announced back in May that he had been diagnosed with cancer, though he did not reveal the specific type of cancer he was fighting. Last week, his Facebook page shared an update on his health, saying that it had been “a rollercoaster of ups and downs as Tony continues his fight with cancer. Tony has been in and out of the hospital with various complications and treatments.”

Born in Hollywood back in 1945, Dow got his big break playing Wally Cleaver on the beloved sitcom “Leave It To Beaver” for 234 episodes from 1957 until it ended in 1963. The show also starred Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, and Ken Osmond.

Beaver’s Tribute To Dow

Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver on the show, took to Facebook to pay tribute to Dow with a touching post.

“He was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well,” Mathers wrote. “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.”

“The world may have lost a star today, but the heavens gained another,” he concluded. 

Dow would go on to reprise his role as Wally Cleaver  on three separate occasions: for the 1983 TV film “Still The Beaver,” a 1987 episode of “The Love Boat” and “The New Leave It To Beaver” TV series from 1983–1989. He also portrayed other roles on shows like “Lassie,” “Adam-12,” “Mod Squad,” “Knight Rider,” “Charles in Charge” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

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Dow’s Passion For Sculpting

Aside from acting, Dow also spent years serving in the National Guard in the 1960s. Off the screen, Dow’s main passion was sculpting, which was something that he enjoyed doing for decades. Deadline reported that back in 2008, Dow was one of only three American sculptors whose art was exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, France.

Sculpting was one thing that helped Dow get through various mental health struggles. He told CBS Sunday Morning earlier this year that he fell into a depression after he found himself being typecast in Wally Cleaver roles following the end of “Leave It To Beaver.”

“I was gonna have to live with it for the rest of my life,” Dow said. “I thought: This isn’t fair. You know? I mean, I’d like to do some other stuff. I’d like to do some interesting stuff. You know, it’s sad to be famous at 12 years old or something, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing’s happening for you.” 

“Depression isn’t something you can say “Cheer up!” about,” he added. “You know, it’s a very powerful thing. And it’s had a lot of effect on my life.”

Sculpting and going to therapy helped Dow overcome this rough period in his life.

“I’ve got it under control pretty much,” he said. “You know, I think people should take the leap of faith that they can feel better.”

Check out Dow’s full comments on this in the interview below.

Dow is survived by his wife of 42 years, Lauren Shulkind, and by two children. May he rest in peace. 

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