'Leave It to Beaver' actor Tony Dow dies at 77 after entering hospice

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"Leave It To Beaver" actor Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver in the popular sitcom, died following a battle with cancer, his manager Frank Bilotta confirmed to USA TODAY on Wednesday. He was 77.

"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," a post from Dow's official Facebook page read. "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."

Dow's son said he has "comfort and peace that he is in a better place."

"He was the best Dad anyone could ask for," Christopher's statement read. "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.' "

His death comes a day after Dow's manager Bilotta initially told USA TODAY Tuesday the actor "passed from cancer" and announced the news on Dow's Facebook page. It was later revealed through reports from Dow's family that he was in hospice care, and the Facebook post was deleted.

Tony Dow has died following a cancer diagnosis.
Tony Dow has died following a cancer diagnosis.

Previous: Tony Dow's family says the 'Leave It to Beaver' actor is in hospice, according to reports

In the now-deleted statement, Bilotta and James shared: "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," they saidadded.

"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," the post said.

On the hit sitcom "Leave It to Beaver," which aired on CBS and then ABC from 1957-63, Wally was the older son of Ward and June, a straighter contrast to the quirkier main character of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). A popular jock, Wally was also ensnared in the schemes of his friend, the mischievous and smooth-talking Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond).

"Tony was not only my brother on TV, but in many ways in life as well. He leaves an empty place in my heart that won’t be filled," Mathers said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "Tony was always the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man, and it was my honor and privilege to be able to share memories together with him for 65 years."

Ken Osmond, Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers filmed TV special "Still the Beaver" in 1982.
Ken Osmond, Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers filmed TV special "Still the Beaver" in 1982.

'It is truly heartbreaking': 'Leave It To Beaver' actor Tony Dow announces cancer diagnosis

The news of his death comes less than three months after the actor and his wife, Lauren Shulkind put out a joint statement sharing the "very sad news" of his cancer diagnosis,  though they didn't disclose details of the disease.

"Dear Friends & Fans of Tony Dow, 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," the joint statement read.

Dow was diagnosed with prostate and gall bladder cancer, according to The Associated Press.

Tony Dow appeared as popular jock Wally Cleaver on "Leave It to Beaver"  on CBS and then ABC from 1957 to 1963.
Tony Dow appeared as popular jock Wally Cleaver on "Leave It to Beaver" on CBS and then ABC from 1957 to 1963.

Tony Dow's health struggles: 'Leave It to Beaver' star hospitalized with pneumonia

Dow's "Beaver" co-star Mathers had updated fans on Dow's cancer battle July 21, asking for "prayers and healing."

He included a note from Dow's Facebook page, which said his illness had been a "rollercoaster of ups and downs" with Dow "in and out of the hospital with various complications and treatments."

The actor and director has been public about previous health struggles. In August he was hospitalized with pneumonia, Bilotta confirmed at the time.

Dow later reprised his role as Wally in a "Beaver" spinoff from 1983 to 1989. He also directed several episodes of 1993's "Babylon 5" along with 1999 episodes of "Crusade" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Dow’s death leaves Mathers and Rusty Stevens, who played Beaver’s friend Larry Mondello, as the only surviving members of the show’s core cast. Beaumont died in 1982. Barbara Billingsley, who played mother June Cleaver, died in 2010. Ken Osmond, who played Haskell, died in 2020.

The actor, born Anthony Lee Dow, has starred in an array of television series as a child and was involved in A Minor Consideration, a non-profit foundation to provide support for child actors.

Ken Osmond obituary: 'Leave It to Beaver' actor, known for role as Eddie Haskell, dies at 76

In 2017, Dow reflected on his acting career and celebrated "Leave It To Beaver" 's 60th anniversary in an interview with the Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.

“It’s nice to be remembered any way you can, so I have accomplished that,” Dow said at the time. “I’m much more appreciative of the show. I was not unappreciative, but I was always a little rebellious."

Dow is survived by his wife of 42 years, Lauren, son Christopher, daughter-in-law Melissa, and brother Dion.

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Contributing: Elise Brisco, Jenna Ryu, Erin Jensen, Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY; Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tony Dow dead: Wally Cleaver 'Leave It to Beaver' actor was 77