Tony Dow, of 'Leave It to Beaver,' passes away at 77 after premature reports of his death, son confirms

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(NEXSTAR) – Tony Dow, who starred as Wally Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver,” passed away on Wednesday morning amid a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by his son.

Dow’s death comes one day after his death was prematurely announced on Facebook by his management team.

“Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place,” said Dow’s son, Christopher Dow, in a statement included in a Facebook post shared to Dow’s official page on Wednesday afternoon. “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.”

Christopher Dow had also said on Tuesday that his father was alive and under hospice care when his management team released a statement on his death Tuesday morning. The statement, posted by managers and friends Frank Bilotta and Renee James, was removed later in the day.

“This is a difficult time,” read a statement attributed to Christopher Dow, which was shared to Facebook on Tuesday. “Dad is at home, under hospice care, and in his last hours. My wife and I are by his side along with many friends that have visited. He has a fighting heart.”

Another statement published Tuesday afternoon to Dow’s Facebook page, presumably from Bilotta and James, had explained that Dow’s wife Lauren Dow, while “very distraught,” had notified them of Dow’s passing and “asked that we notify all his fans.”

“As we are sure you can understand, this has been a very trying time for her,” read the statement, which was posted Tuesday afternoon. “We have received a call from Tony’s daughter-in-law saying that while Tony is not doing well, he has not yet passed. Tony’s son Christopher and his daughter-in-law Melissa have also been by his side comforting him, and we will keep you posted on any future updates.”

Nexstar had reached out to one of Dow’s representatives for additional information on the mix-up.

Jerry Mathers, Dow’s former co-star on “Leave It to Beaver,” was one of many friends and fellow actors to react to the initial reports of Dow’s passing on Tuesday.

“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,” Mathers had written on Facebook.

Mathers’ post has since been removed.

Dow, 77, is perhaps best known for playing Wally Cleaver, brother to Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Mathers) on “Leave It to Beaver” between 1957 and 1963. Dow appeared in all 234 episodes, as well as the 1983 TV reunion film “Still the Beaver” and the sequel series “The New Leave It to Beaver,” which ran for four seasons in the mid-‘80s. He also made appearances in popular shows including “My Three Sons,” “Lassie” and “Adam-12.”

In addition to acting, Dow has directed television episodes of “The New Leave It to Beaver,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Coach” and “Babylon 5,” as well as nearly a dozen other series, according to IMDb.

He also became a sculptor in later years, with one of his pieces being temporarily displayed as part of an exhibition at the Louvre, the L.A. Times reported in 2008.

Erroneous reports of Dow’s death on Tuesday morning followed news of Dow’s health scares in recent years, including his hospitalization for pneumonia in August 2021. At the time, his agent told The Hollywood Reporter he was “in good spirits” despite the diagnosis.

Months later in May, Dow’s wife had also revealed Dow was “once again” diagnosed with cancer, suggesting he had battled the disease previously. On May 29, Dow himself also shared a Facebook update with fans upon beginning immunotherapy treatment.

“I really wanted to touch base and thank all of you who have been thinking, praying and hoping for my good recovery,” wrote Dow, in what appears to be the last Facebook post he penned himself. “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.”

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